Critical need for nurses in Fla. pushing universities to potentially expand programs

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There’s a critical need for nurses in Southwest Florida, but few are available. The nursing shortage is due to lack of space to train future nurses.

“It is due to really the aging of the population, the increasing of demand and the aging of the nursing population,” said Mary Lou Brunell, executive director at the Florida Center for Nursing. “Close to 10,000, if not more qualified applicants who are turned away from a registered nurse program in our state. That’s public and private programs. Nationally—probably close to 100,000.”

But Anne Nolan, director of FGCU’s nursing school, said it’s not just about limited school space and faculty.

“Critically we have a certain amount of access to clinical practice sites,” she said.

For students already in the program, they’re not worried about competition.

“You can always get a job where you want to go. I like the career because I feel like it gives a lot of stability,” said nursing student Seeka Agam.

Industry professionals are now looking at alternatives for traditional clinical experience to ultimately take on more students.

“The hospitals are, they’re not expanding. Hospitals aren’t growing in the same way they were 20 years ago and so now what’s growing is home health outpatient skilled nursing, long term care,” Brunell said.

FGCU received nearly 400 nursing applicants in 2017. Their target class size if 88.

The program is working to increase undergraduate class size over the next several years.

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