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High Failure Rates Among Nursing Students Indicated Need for a Cure

Beginning in the late 1990s, Florida, along with the rest of the nation, began to feel the effects of an unprecedented shortage of nurses. Everyone felt the crunch; hospital executives grappled with recruitment and retention problems, employed nurses commonly worked long hours to meet care demands, and patient safety was negatively impacted due to a lack of staff. In 2001, the Florida Legislature responded by establishing and funding the Florida Center for Nursing (FCN). The FCN’s mission is to quantify Florida’s growing scarcity and craft recommendations to increase the quantity and quality of Florida’s nursing workforce.

By 2007, FCN estimated a shortage of 16,500 registered nurses (RNs) and warned that “the supply of RNs must increase more rapidly to fill existing vacancies and keep pace with new job growth.” Concurrently, nursing schools reported turning away a large number of applicants due to lack of faculty and clinical practice sites. The University of Florida’s School of Nursing rejected at least two qualified students for every student accepted while Pasco-Hernando Community College warned some students that they may need to wait up to 4 years for a seat in their program.

In 2009, the Legislature responded by modifying the nursing education approval process. Previously, Florida’s Board of Nursing (BON) had full authority to sanction new nursing schools. The legislative changes codified and shortened the process, resulting in a rapid increase in the number of nursing programs. From 2009 to 2016, the number of programs doubled and there are currently 350 active nursing education programs in Florida. Since the rule change, only 20 prospective nursing programs have been rejected. While the legislation was successful, there were unintended consequences.

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