Florida Registered nurse shortage draws job seekers

(WWSB) According to the Florida Center for Nursing, Florida is expected to have 15,000 vacancies for registered nurses in 2012. Now nursing program instructors say something needs to be done to help fill some of those job openings.

Staff members at Sarasota Memorial Hospital say they have no problem when it comes to recruiting nurses to join the workforce because of their reputation. But while they are filling quotas, other places on the Suncoast and across the state are in dire need of more registered nurses.

It was a job opportunity Gail Wojtowicz couldn’t pass up. “As the opportunity came up and I saw the shortage and I knew I would like to have some job security, that’s when I decided I was going to go for it.”

So she registered in Sarasota County Technical Institute’s LPN program. “Eventually get into an RN program.”

And with today’s economy, more and more people of different ages are considering the nursing field as a career. “It’s anybody trying to get back into a job. Quite a few in our class are over age 40,” says Wojtowicz

And they picked the right one, as the Florida Center for Nursing predicts a registered nursing shortage — already in the thousands — to grow to more than 56,000 by 2025. “The American population is getting older, and you know the Baby Boomers are all starting to retire. We’re going to have an increase in Florida; it’s the number one state to come and retire in,” says nursing program manager Scott Kennedy.

So in order to keep up with the aging population, nursing instructors say it will be important for more spots to be available in the programs. “If you can’t meet the demand, then you’ll always be in a deficit is status. So I think creating more nurses and entry level nurses is the place to begin.”

And with the increase in open positions, there will need to be increased funding for current nurses to expand the areas they can work in. “They’re not able to practice to the full extent of their licensure, and those are the kinds of things that hold back the vital health care that our population needs,” says Lisa Baumgardner, manager of education at Sarasota Memorial.

Community hospitals are encouraged to have 80% of their nurses with their baccalaureate in nursing.