Florida College Funding for Nursing Programs Critical for the Future

Tallahassee is a long drive from Florida’s Treasure Coast, but it’s a drive I’d happily take to solve one of our state’s most pressing problems.

I had the privilege recently of traveling to our state capitol to attend the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services for a candid discussion of Florida’s dire nursing shortage. Maintaining an exceptional level of health care is essential to the growth of Florida’s economy. Attracting new businesses and residents, retaining existing businesses, and providing a vibrant quality of life for our citizens all depend on the quality of our health care.

The critical need for nurses in Florida jeopardizes our high standards.

Mary Mayhew, CEO and President of the Florida Hospital System, reported a 25% nurse turnover rate statewide; 30% in clinical care settings. The news isn’t getting much better – according to the FHA, by 2035 the state will have 59,100 fewer nurses than needed.

In this undated image, nursing students Kristen Stoyka (left) and Colleen Quigley (right), both of Sebastian, review new medical merchandise in the bookstore on the first day of fall school at Indian River State college in Fort Pierce.

In direct response to this statewide workforce crisis, on December 14, Indian River State College joined community health care partners in announcing plans to double the number of graduates in its nursing programs. The college will invest approximately $13.5 million to support this largest program expansion in CIHR history and transform 50,521 square feet on our Pruitt campus in Port St. Lucie into nursing classrooms at the state-of-the-art and simulated clinical environments.

By expanding our nursing program and investing in these modern facilities, we can be even more responsive to our partners’ workforce needs. Likewise, the expansion allows more of our students to progress quickly to high-paying and in-demand careers. I believe it is the moral imperative of CIHR to serve our citizens and fill this skills gap.

It’s good for the state. It’s great for our area.

Hardly a week goes by that at least one local health care facility contacts our nursing school to connect with alumni or future graduates. Licensing and certification rates for CIHR DNA students are consistently higher than state and national levels. Over the past three years, the average employment rate for these graduates has averaged 99%.

The college is one of the few in the Florida College System to offer a continuum of programs: Practical Nursing, Practical Nursing, and Associate’s Degree and RN to BSN programs.

CIHR and its sister FCS institutions are well positioned to provide a long-term solution to address the state’s systemic nursing shortage. Our colleges lead the way as cost-effective and accessible higher education providers, and 95% of our graduates stay in Florida after graduation, almost always debt-free.

Increasing the capacity of the School of Nursing is just the beginning. Moving these programs to Port St. Lucie means we have space in Fort Pierce to increase enrollment in many paramedic health programs.

CIHR is unwavering in its focus on its true north – mission, students and community. The college has embarked on a series of strategic initiatives aimed at bringing economic betterment to historically underrepresented populations; meet the growing demand for a trained and diverse workforce; promote student success and well-being; investing in future generations; and develop critical partnerships that bring new opportunities and ideas to our students, our region and our nation.

And we’re firmly committed to supporting Governor Ron DeSantis’ goal to accelerate Florida to become the No. 1 workforce by 2030.

Indian River State College Presidential Research Finalist Timothy Moore.

The private sector is our essential partner in addressing the nursing shortage. We will continue to work with local medical centers and practices, business leaders and healthcare executives to expand opportunities for nursing and allied health programs that help us increase student enrollment and recruit and retain qualified teachers.

Our legislators have a huge challenge ahead, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to share CIHR’s story – our regional story of collaboration and problem-solving – alongside FCS Chancellor Kathy Hebda and Dr. others representing the intersection of education and health care.

The FCS is the workhorse of Florida’s workforce. A strategic investment of $60 million in program funding will be transformative in addressing the shortage of healthcare workers and filling the skills gaps in this great state.

It is a message that I will drive to Tallahassee to share as much as needed.

Timothy Moore is president of Indian River State College.

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