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UF Health Strengthens Efforts To Recruit and Retain Nurses Amid Shortage in Florida

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated December 14, 2023
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    Amid a rising nurse shortage and an aging population, the University of Florida developed several strategies to retain and recruit high quality nurses.
    University of Florida historic campus buildingCredit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
    • The Florida population is aging while the nursing shortage in the state is growing to a critical need.
    • The University of Florida College of Nursing has developed several strategies to recruit and retain high-quality nurses.
    • The average nursing salary in Florida compared to the cost of living is another factor that may help retain nurses.

    The Florida Hospital Association notes a growing critical shortage of healthcare workers in the state. Based on the analysis, Florida will be short 59,000 nurses by 2035 — roughly 19% of the state’s 314,512 nurses.

    In 2021, about 25% of Florida’s population were 65 and older, and 32% of those had some type of disability. There is a crucial need for nurse retention and recruitment in Florida. The University of Florida has taken steps to develop Florida nursing shortage solutions that expand and strengthen efforts to meet healthcare needs.

    The Need for Nurse Recruitment and Retention in Florida

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 52% of all U.S. adults were diagnosed with at least one chronic condition in 2018, and 27% had two or more chronic conditions. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), those numbers are much greater for those aged 60 and older.

    The NCOA reports that nearly 95% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 80% have two or more.

    Florida’s nursing shortage will significantly impact healthcare delivery as healthcare needs increase due to the state’s aging population. The University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research estimates that Florida’s 60 and older population will increase from 25% to 30% between 2021 and 2030.

    Roughly 90% of the annual healthcare expenditures in the U.S. are for people with chronic illness and mental health conditions. Those chronic conditions include heart disease and stroke, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

    The Florida nursing shortage solutions developed by UF Health can help make an impact.

    How UF Health is Addressing the Nursing Shortage in Florida

    To reduce the impact on healthcare, the University of Florida College of Nursing has expanded its nurse retention and recruitment strategies to attract and keep high-quality nurses at UF Health Jacksonville. One strategy has been to offer an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree that helps those with a bachelor’s in another field to pursue a BSN at an accelerated rate.

    “We at the College of Nursing are proud to play a significant role in not only preparing nurses to enter the workforce but also preparing nurses who will meet the challenges of health care head-on,” said interim Dean Debra Lyon, Ph.D., in a press release.

    The Jacksonville campus announced a 38% increase in accelerated BSN (ABSN) program students in 2023 from 2022. The College of Nursing also plans to expand class sizes to double enrollment. UF attributes the increase in enrollment as a direct result of funding received in 2022 to expand the workforce.

    In addition to recruiting nurses into the nursing program, the UF Health Jacksonville facility has also hired 115 nursing students in the last seven years and roughly 70% have stayed. This retention rate is much higher than the 24% national turnover rate after just one year of employment.

    Another innovative nursing program UF Health offers is the Academic Partnership Unit. The program is in its seventh year and allows nursing leaders to recruit student nurses. UF Health Jacksonville is one of two hospitals in the nation with this program.

    The University of Florida has also announced a plan to develop a graduate campus that focuses on innovative programs in engineering, business, and medicine. An additional factor that helps retain nurses in Florida is the salary range compared to the state’s cost of living.

    According to Zip Recruiter, the average nurse’s salary in Florida is $60,258 per year while the national average in the same database is $87,868 per year. However, the cost of living in Florida ranks as the 32nd lowest from data gathered in 2022.