State of Florida asking federal government for 1,500 nurses

FILE (Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

The state is asking the federal government for 1,500 nurses to “surge into hospitals for day and night shifts.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration submitted the application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on July 3 and said it would provide the names of the hospitals where the nurses would be deployed this week.

Immediate attempts to get the names of the facilities were unsuccessful.

Related: Governor says help is on the way, dispatching 100 nurses to Tampa Bay area hospitals

Until the FEMA nurses arrive, DeSantis said he would direct other nurses to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and to Tampa.

And DeSantis isn’t the only one clamoring for additional nurses.

Florida’s county health departments told state officials they need 997 additional nurses to help in the COVID-19 response. The health departments in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties asked for an additional 400, 90 and 76 nurses, respectively.

Related: Overwhelmed contact tracers forced to prioritize cases until staffing increase in August

But the question is: Are there enough nurses to help?

A study conducted by the Resources and Services Administration National Center showed the United States had an estimated 3.95 million licensed registered nurses in 2017. Roughly 60 percent of them reported working in hospital settings.

A more recent Florida Department of Health report showed 353,654 registered nurses were licensed to practice in Florida in June 2019, the latest available data. The majority of the nurses --- 275,976 --- lived in the state. Another 35,304 advanced practice nurses were licensed to work in Florida. And the Legislature this year agreed to allow certain advanced nurses to practice independently from physicians.

Related: Florida's curve no longer flat amid new surge of coronavirus cases

Nurses aren’t the only professionals the county health departments told the state they needed.

When surveyed about their needs by the Florida Department of Health last month, county departments reported needing another 350 epidemiologists and 1,210 contact tracers.

The DOH released the county health department data Thursday as it announced the distribution of more than $138 million in federal pandemic funds to hire staff. The Broward County Health Department is slated to receive $30.5 million; the Miami-Dade County Health Department will receive nearly $19.5 million; and the Palm Beach County Health Department will receive more than $12.7 million.