Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Bill could cure nurse shortage
Tax dollars would be spent on recruitment
By Tia Mitchell
Times-Union staff writer
According to the Florida Hospital Association, there will be a need for 34,000 more nurses in Florida by 2006. While the state has the highest percentage of elderly citizens in the nation, it ranks 31st in the number of registered nurses per 100,000 population
Gov. Jeb Bush and Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan yesterday announced their support of a bill designed to attract and keep more nurses in Florida.
The Nursing Shortage Solutions Act addresses the increasing percentage of vacant nursing positions in the state, especially in acute care hospitals. The act has numerous provisions that would spend state tax dollars on recruitment and retention programs within hospitals, as well as secondary and post-secondary institutions. The bills are being sponsored by Rep. Sandra Murman, R-Tampa, and Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples.
During a news conference yesterday, Bush said the financial incentives of working as a nurse are very attractive, but students have to be aware of the opportunities.
"When you see the wages that can be earned, it's a pretty good deal when you think about it," he said.
Barbara Lumpkin, associate executive director of the nursing association, spoke during the news conference and said a unified effort is needed to bring more qualified nurses to the state.
"We all must work together to ensure that the citizens of this state now and in the future have their health and nursing needs provided by well-educated and highly skilled professional nurses," she said.
The act would provide $1 million in matching grants to hospitals and reduce the amount of individual school loans, depending on the length of time a nurse stays in the profession. Bush is also recommending $500,000 in grants to middle and high schools as well as $5 million to community colleges to fund more training for several professions in dire need, including nursing.
Murman said the fees nurses pay yearly for licenses and renewals would fund all of the act's provisions. Currently the 170,000 nurses in Florida must renew their license every two years.
The House Colleges and Universities Committee, the first to officially debate the measure, passed the bill unanimously yesterday morning before the news conference. The Senate bill has not yet been assigned to any committee. However, many expect both bills to be widely supported by legislators, and Brogan said he is already looking forward to seeing the act become law.
"It will be great to be at that bill signing," he said.
Staff writer Tia Mitchell can be reached at (850) 224-7515, extension 10 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org