Suncoast Nursing Programs hope to fill gap in staff shortage

Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 9:47 PM EST
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - As the number of cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, the amount of nurses have not. We are seeing a nursing shortage across the nation, and it’s directly affecting our Suncoast hospitals. Staffing has been an issue at hospitals and facilities in Florida way before the pandemic, but it’s now that they’re really feeling the impacts of it. However, now, academic programs are being brought to the Suncoast to train and employ more frontline health heroes.

“I think part of it is because of nursing schools. They only accept a number of applicants each year because of the amount of faculty, so they want to be selective in who they choose,” explained Dr. Todd Haner DNP, MBA, RN, the Chief Nursing Officer at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota.

While the goal is to keep that quality of future healthcare workers, nursing schools on the Suncoast are now expanding their programs to be able to fill the shortage -like the State College of Florida who created a center for nursing excellence.

“It’s allowed us to increase our annual size of our associate degree of nursing from 160 students to our current enrollment of 369. As we move forward, we will be able to increase the number of graduates,” Dr. Tammy Sawmelle, Ph.D., MSN, RN, Chief Nurse Administrator and Director of Nursing Programs at State College of Florida, tells us.

The State of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity projects there will be 496 registered nurse openings in 2021. SCF will be graduating 200 of those nurses that can be employed in those positions, and according to the data, this program has a record of scoring the highest certification rates at 99%.

“Plus, this surpasses all other nursing programs in our area,” Dr. Sawmelle expressed.

Hospitals need help right now, though. That’s why Premier Nursing Academy is opening a second Florida location in Bradenton that will offer free, state-approved training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant – and students will be able to graduate as a CNA in just four weeks. Plus, these students will be employed as soon as they pass their certification.

“The reason that it is free is that the employer is sponsoring their education. This is giving a lot of individuals the opportunity to get into healthcare which at one point was unattainable due to cost, simply,” explained Chris Palevich, MBA, MSM, the President of Premier Nursing Academy.

By 2021, 500 students on the Suncoast are expected to graduate as a CNA and enter the workforce.

“This will make a huge impact in the staffing need not only in Sarasota and Bradenton areas, but throughout Florida in the next year,” Palevich said.

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