Editor's Note: This article is written by Jan Mauck, founder and co-chair of the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition, and was originally published by the Herald-Tribune.
Modern-day nursing has come a long way since its groundbreaking founder, Florence Nightingale, blazed a trail through unsanitary conditions at a British hospital base and sparked worldwide health care reform. Just six months after Nightingale and her 38-strong nursing team arrived at the army field hospital, the lifesaving interventions they made reduced that hospital’s death rate by two-thirds. More than a century later, nurses around the world continue to inspire, innovate, and influence policy and practice changes that save patients’ lives.
The problem is, we don’t have enough of them.
There are more than 3-million nurses in the United States today, but more than a third are nearing retirement age. Current estimates show there will be 1-million vacancies for registered nurses in our nation by 2024 — a deficit twice as bad as the worst previous nursing shortage. The situation is perhaps most concerning in Florida, where the population over age 65 is twice the national average and where aging baby boomers — one of the largest generations — are just beginning to require additional care.
That’s the driving force behind the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition (SNAC) and the significant investment it is making locally to ensure continued access to safe, high-quality care on the Suncoast. Made up of local hospital, nursing, academic, and community leaders from Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties, SNAC is one of dozens of coalitions across the nation focused on educating, recruiting and retaining highly-trained nurses in their communities.This week, National Nurses Week, it was my privilege to unveil several wide-ranging initiatives by SNAC and its partners, among them:
- Nursing Education Navigator: In 2015, SNAC hired a navigator to advise and mentor people interested in a nursing career. From February 2015 through April 2018, the navigator has counseled 845 students/nurses and referred 539 to nursing programs. At least 177 students are currently enrolled in accredited nursing school programs.
- Nursing Scholarship Program: Thanks to community support, SNAC has awarded $214,000 in nursing scholarships to 58 local recipients. Most of the recipients are slated to graduate within two years with a bachelor’s degree in nursing or doctorate with a focus on nursing education, with plans to work or teach locally.
Organizations supporting the scholarships and related SNAC initiatives include the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, The Patterson Foundation, Burruss Foundation, Florida Blue Foundation, Lela D. Jackson Foundation, Janice S. Kelly Memorial Foundation, Rita B. Lamere Memorial Foundation and the Sarah Greer Mayer Fund of the Community Foundation.
- Local BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) Training Programs: Perhaps most important are the efforts undertaken by SNAC partners from Florida SouthWestern State College, Keiser University, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
Each has created new or expanded curriculums and facilities that will allow nurses to enroll in four-year bachelor’s degree programs in their hometowns for the first time this fall — an amazing commitment that comes at a time when many qualified students are being turned away from other nursing schools that lack sufficient faculty nurses to train them.
Through these collective efforts, SNAC is helping to create a robust pipeline of highly educated nurses in our region. Many of our initiatives are focused on helping nurses earn BSNs and higher degrees because we believe the additional education will better prepare registered nurses for the increasing complexity of medical technologies and treatments and give them the confidence and leadership skills to continually assess and improve clinical practices and care.
I’d like to thank the thousands of nurses in our community for their amazing service on Saturday, the culmination of National Nurses Week and Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nursing is a calling, not just a profession — today’s nurses are healers, researchers, educators, mentors, and like Nightingale, patient champions who deserve our endless thanks and recognition for the dedication they demonstrate every day.
A nurse of more than 40 years, Jan Mauck is the founder and co-chair of the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition. She retired as chief nursing officer at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System last year.
For information about SNAC, please visit SNAC4FL.org.