Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the Herald-Tribune and was submitted by Kim Savage, public relations manager of the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System.
The Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition (SNAC) awarded 14 scholarships totaling $50,000 this month in a continuing effort to strengthen the region’s nursing workforce.
The annual scholarships are part of SNAC’s multi-pronged action plan to develop a pipeline of baccalaureate-prepared nurses and ensure continued access to safe, high-quality care on the Suncoast.
“When we invest in and encourage nurses to obtain their bachelor’s degrees, we are helping to ensure the nursing workforce is better prepared for the challenges ahead,” said Mauck, who leads the grassroots coalition of hospital, community, and academic leaders addressing the nursing shortage in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.
With a rapidly expanding older population, rising incidence of chronic disease, and limited capacity of accredited nursing schools that offer Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees, Florida faces a critical need in nurses who are capable of a higher level of critical thinking and application.
BSN nursing programs help to alleviate the nursing shortage by graduating nurses who are much more likely to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN exam) required for practice. In Florida, the NCLEX pass rates are the lowest in the U.S., with the exception of BSN degree programs which are above the national average.
SNAC scholarships are targeted toward local nurses pursuing BSN degrees or higher. Since 2016, SNAC has awarded $264,000 in nursing scholarships to 72 local recipients (including those awarded today). Many have already or are slated to graduate in the next two years with BSN degrees and plan to work in the Suncoast region. Several have started work toward master’s and doctoral degrees as well. Over the years, SNAC has earmarked seven scholarships to nurses pursuing doctoral degrees because more nursing professors are needed to expand the capacity of local nursing schools.
In addition to awarding scholarships, SNAC’s initiatives also include:
- Nurse Navigator services – SNAC hired a Nursing Education Navigator to advise and mentor people interested in a nursing career. From February 2015 through Aug 2019, the navigator has counseled over 1,100 students/nurses and referred 820 to nursing programs. At least 255 are currently accepted/enrolled or have graduated from an accredited nursing school program.
- Nursing Education Programs – SNAC is helping hospitals and colleges develop and expand programs that provide direct and accelerated pathways for pre-licensure BSN nursing students. Local partners Florida Southwestern State College, Keiser University, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee all have created new or expanded curriculums and facilities that are allowing more nurses to enroll in four-year BSN programs in their hometowns in the coming year.
- Community Support – Foundations 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, Sarah Greer Mayer Fund of the Community Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, Charlotte Community Foundation, and CareerEdge.