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At USF, Kathy Castor touts legislation to address growing need for more nurses

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Nursing is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country.

But despite that growth, the demand is still outpacing the supply. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million vacancies will emerge for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022.

And according to Dr. Charles Lockwood, the medical dean of the University of South Florida’s Morsani School of Medicine, the gap may be even worse than anticipated. He says because the demand for nurses is going to expand with our changing health care delivery systems, “we don’t know what the number is, really.”

That’s why Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor says she became a co-sponsor on a bill last week (H.R.  959) that would extend education nursing grants to support clinical nurse specialist programs.

“It provides a pathway to good paying jobs and nursing all across the country and is especially important in a state like Florida that continues to grow and have such needs for a nursing work force,” she said at a news conference held at the newly revamped USF College of Nursing George & Marian Miller Center for Virtual Learning on Monday. “The bill allows for certain scholarships and repayment programs and encourages nursing professionals to go into underserved neighborhoods and to learn clinical skills.”

Although noting that the Tampa Bay area’s unemployment numbers are impressively low, it is still a struggle to bring higher paying jobs to the region. Nursing, Castor said, is a direct pathway to a good paying job for someone in a hospital, doctor’s office, or as a teacher.

Dr. Lockwood agreed, saying that the real problem in the nursing industry is a loss of faculty members to teach the nurses of tomorrow.  “That’s really the primary job that I think we face at USF, to make sure the faculty pipeline is filled,” he said.

The statistics bear him out.

According to an American Association of Colleges of Nursing report, “U.S. nursing schools turned away 79,659 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2012 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.”

“A lot of our students have to work and go to school at the same time so they can go to pay their college tuition, and by having this type of program, that allows them to have their education paid for, (and) they’re able to concentrate more on their studies,” said Dr. Teresa Gore, Director of Experimental Learning at the USF College of Nursing.

“Investing in our nurses is an investment in our health, an investment in our community, and an investment in our sustainability as a vibrant society,” added Dr. Donna Petersen, Dean of USF College of Public Health, the Interim Dean at the USF College of Nursing.

 

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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