USF Health hopes to combat nurse shortage by streamlining nursing program

There has been a growing shortage of nurses nationwide over the last few years, and the situation was made worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 1.1-million new nurses are needed by next year, and experts say the deficit will be the worst out west, and here in the South.

"It is definitely a national concern, I would say, even a global concern," said USF Health College of Nursing assistant dean of undergraduate programs Dr. Catherine Belden.

She says this trend is something leadership is taking seriously.  They hope to start reversing the shortage by changing programs and increasing enrollment.

"The changes that we are implementing currently are probably a little bit overdue," Belden said.  "It will bring more new nurses into the profession immediately."

Starting in the fall, the College of Nursing will start phasing out an online program for registered nurses who want to further their careers and get a bachelor of science in nursing.

"That doesn’t add additional nursing force to the profession," explained Belden.  "Having the opportunity to instruct and move new graduates through the licensure process is our best opportunity to increase our numbers in the profession."

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The change will open up more seats for students entering pre-licensure paths.  Enrollment is expected to increase by 20% at USF’s Tampa campus, and double at both the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses.

"So this is a great way to bring students in and have that pipeline right away into graduate work," Belden said.

Officials say with more students enrolling, the number of nurses from USF entering the workforce should increase by 24%.  A good start to addressing the nursing shortage.