Shortage of registered nurses impacts care in Sarasota

- Nurses are on the front line at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where each day brings a new round of patients which present a new round of challenges.

"You have to be the eyes and ears of seeing that patient making a constant assessment, working collaboratively with the physicians," said Pam Beitlich. 

But one challenge these nurses currently face is out of their control.

There's a shortage of nurses with four-year bachelor's degrees. Hospitals need them more than ever. 

"Your chances of survival as a patient go up if you're being taken care of by a BSN nurse," said Beitlich. 

Those nurses are hard to find. Pam Beitlich is the Director of Women's and Children's Services at SMH. She says nursing students often choose a 2-year degree, resulting in a less experienced, less trained nursing force. 

"Very often what happens is nurses get into the field, they don't go back to school or maybe they are single parents. It's that whole thing of how quickly you can become an RN," she said. 

After seeing the need for highly trained nurses first-hand, the State College of Florida started a program called BSN in 4. It guarantees students a spot if they maintain a 3.7 GPA. 

"They will be followed on through the program in cohorts of 20 so they can be mentored and have that concierge type of learning," said Dr.Rosie Fairchild. 

SCF tuition costs approximately $11,100.  It's one of the most reasonably-priced in the state. 

Dr. Rosie Fairchild the Dean of Nursing and Health Professions at SCF said their goal is to educate well-trained nurses and keep them near. 

"They want to stay here once they graduate...we educate them here and our students tend to stay here as well," she said. 

The Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition (SNAC) is offering $50,000 in scholarships to encourage more area nurses and prospective nursing students to earn their bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) and ensure safe, high-quality nursing care in the Sarasota, Charlotte, Manatee, and Desoto counties region. 

The deadline to apply for the scholarships is March 1, 2018. To be eligible, applicants must live or work at a medical facility within the SNAC region (Sarasota, Charlotte, Manatee, & Desoto), or be a graduate of a high school from one of those counties.

Applicants also must:

-Have submitted an application for acceptance to an accredited nursing bachelor's program.
-Plan to be a full or part-time student.
-Demonstrate financial need.
-Obtain at least one recommendation from an employer or faculty/instructor.

The amounts awarded vary based on individual needs, with a minimum award of $2,500. Former recipients of SNAC's nursing scholarships are eligible to reapply for awards in subsequent years.

Recipients are chosen by the SNAC Selection Committee; scholarships are approved and administered by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

SNAC has granted 36 scholarships totaling $140,000 since 2016. Local foundations that have supported SNAC include the Sarah Greer Mayer Fund of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County; the Janice S. Kelly Memorial Foundation, Rita B. Lamere Memorial Foundation and Burrus Foundation.

For information about the scholarships and applications, call SNAC's nurse navigator at (941) 780-1447, email or visit its website at

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