Florida Gulf Coast University Filling the Need for Nurses

State funding fuels partnership with local healthcare systems

Florida Gulf Coast University, the state Legislature and the two largest healthcare systems in Southwest Florida are working together on a prescription to address the widespread nursing shortage.

For the past year, the School of Nursing in FGCU’s Marieb College of Health & Human Services has benefited as a recipient of the Florida Legislature’s Linking Industry to Nursing Education (LINE) funding program.

To qualify for the grants, the school has to secure a dollar-to-dollar match from a healthcare partner. For 2023-24, NCH Healthcare System in Collier County and Lee Health in Lee County stepped up to fulfill this requirement. By doing so, the area’s two major hospital systems demonstrated their commitment to FGCU and the program poised to educate more nurses for Southwest Florida.

FGCU a pipeline for the workforce
The LINE grant isn’t the only way FGCU is strengthening the healthcare workforce. With a three-year, $22.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce-Economic Development Administration’s Good Jobs Challenge, the university is offering workforce training programs designed to help unemployed and underemployed Southwest Floridians quickly obtain the qualifications for jobs in four of the region’s primary industries – including healthcare.

According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment projections, the healthcare sector is projected to create 45% of all projected new jobs from 2022 to 2032. Nurse practitioners are among the top three occupations in that sector to expect increased employment and rapid growth through 2032. The current shortages affecting hospitals nationwide are felt locally and caused by a lack of qualified nurses. Another factor: The Florida Center for Nursing reports that more than 40% of the state’s nurses are baby boomers and expecting to retire in the next 10 years.

By 2035, Florida is expected to face an overall shortage of 59,000 nurses, according to a Florida Hospital Association analysis. Labor market conditions are pushing hospitals to unusual measures to retain staff and fill vacancies, including salary modifications to reflect the value of labor in the current economy.

Teaching the next generation of nurses
One goal of the LINE funding program is to increase the number of nursing graduates to combat the shortfall in the state. In addition to the bachelor’s degree in nursing, FGCU’s nursing school offers graduate programs for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthesiologists and nurse educators.

Marieb College’s undergraduate nursing students spend four to five semesters immersed in clinical settings where they apply their learning in professional patient-centered environments, gain an understanding of health system practices and develop confidence as compassionate caregivers. Those pursuing graduate degrees experience intensive hands-on internships in a variety of acute and primary healthcare settings. All of this helps the school maintain 100% graduate employment rates and excellent first-time certification pass rates.

Another key asset of the program is Marieb Hall’s laboratory facilities, which house high-fidelity simulation and assessment labs. This is where students enjoy low faculty-to-student ratios and the individualized attention of our nurse educators. By the time they graduate, they feel confident and fully prepared to do the important work of delivering superior care to the community.

Brenda Hage, FGCU’s School of Nursing director, says the LINE funds are already making a difference in addressing the need for more nurses through scholarships for financially challenged students that help keep them in school and on track for careers.

“Our students are working while they’re going to school, and when they’re trying to juggle so many things it can detract from their ability to be successful,” says Hage. “These scholarships have been so essential because they’re allowing our students to focus more fully on their education.”

More than $145,000 has been awarded in the past year.

Another goal for NCH and Lee Health’s partnership is to keep nursing graduates in Florida. As part of the LINE scholarship, recipients participate in an 18-month residency at Lee Health after graduation, which further supports new graduates as they enter practice.

Helping expand programs to teach more nurses
In addition to supporting students, LINE funds are used to purchase simulation equipment, recruit additional faculty and cover other essential one-time expenses to facilitate the expansion of Marieb College’s nursing program.

The partnership with Lee Health and NCH extends beyond funding, providing opportunities for clinical rotations and fostering a commitment to producing top-notch graduates to address the healthcare needs of Southwest Florida residents.

Shawn Felton, Marieb College’s dean, believes such collaborative community partnerships are invaluable.

“I think we’re all in the business of making Southwest Florida the best community we can. And we have an obligation, from the university’s perspective, to align the workforce talent for our clinical partners. This is just another example of great partners working together for a common goal,” says Felton.

Florida Gulf Coast University

10501 FGCU Boulevard South
Fort Myers, FL 33965
(239) 590-1000 |  fgcu.edu


Check Also

Ovarian Cancer

Robotic Surgery Offers New Lease on Life for Ovarian Cancer Patient

Margie Palmer, 61, of Bradenton, Fla., had been suffering from severe digestive issues, bloating, stomach …