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Florida Center for Nursing's efforts net results despite cuts to funding

Monday December 3, 2012
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Mary Lou Brunell, RN
Despite losing its state funding because of budget cuts starting in the 2010-11 fiscal year, the Florida Center for Nursing continues to monitor nursing supply and demand trends, has started a new simulation alliance and co-leads the stateís Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.

"This has been an interesting year, hanging in there without state funding," said Mary Lou Brunell, RN, MSN, executive director of the Florida Center for Nursing, a state workforce center based in Orlando that was established by the legislature to recommend solutions to address the stateís nursing shortage. "Itís a growing concern, but we have been able to continue our research agenda."

The center has relied on sound fiscal management and donations, with about $35,000 to $45,000 annually coming from nurses and nursing organizations, and project support from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida Foundation in Jacksonville, something Louise Pitts, ARNP, MSN, EdD, chairwoman of the centerís board of directors, described as vital to the centerís survival.

"We know the best care comes when you have great data and information," said Susan Towler, vice president of BCBSF Foundation. "We know being innovative in the healthcare space is how you move the needle on all health indicators as a state and country, so we look for trusted partners who have the ability to collect data, analyze that and be a credible source. The Florida Center provides that, but the center has had to think broader. And we have helped them do that."

The BCBSF Foundation partnered with the center on the formation of the Florida Healthcare Simulation Alliance, which Towler called one of the centerís biggest 2012 accomplishments. The alliance aims to improve communication and sharing of resources within the state and to develop regional collaboration to enhance simulation training.

The center and the BCBSF Foundation co-lead the Florida Action Coalition, part of a national campaign to mobilize diverse stakeholders to prepare nursing for the future based on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundationís and the Institute of Medicineís "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health" report. Brunell said the campaign is moving forward nicely. The leaders have brought together experts from a variety of settings for a steering committee and have formed four action teams to address leadership, education, practice and workforce data issues.

"The campaign is long term in nature," Towler said. "Weíve gotten the infrastructure in place, selected teams and set priorities."

The center remains dedicated to its research function, recently completing an analysis of the nurse supply data and publishing reports about the LPN, RN and ARNP supply. A recent employer survey assessed demand, and an education survey has helped determine nursing education capacity and faculty supply and demand.

"All three reports indicate common issues," Brunell said.

The supply data shows flat growth of about 27,000 new nurses in the periods 2008-10 and 2010-12, but the state had a net gain of only 7,800 from 2010-12, compared to 11,500 in 2008-10. Many nurses did not renew their licenses, Brunell speculated, perhaps because of relocations or retirement.

"Itís a trend we are concerned about," Brunell said. "We need to look at improving retention again of nurses, not just in a given employment setting but in the profession."

The employer survey shows an increase in turnover and vacancies primarily for positions requiring experience, management skills or an advanced degree — not for new graduates.

"We need to help our current workforce expand its skills and education," Brunell said. "And we have to watch the production of new nurses."

The education report showed an increase in nursing programs — 31 ADN programs and 25 LPN programs. Florida schools graduate greater numbers of associate degree nurses and LPNs, while the number of BSN graduates remains steady.

The centerís board is in the process of developing and updating a statewide action plan to ensure the state has an adequate nursing workforce and to prepare for implementation of the Affordable Care Act and an aging population, both of which are expected to increase the need for nurses. In addition to the state, nursing education programs and nursing employers use the centerís data.

Looking ahead, the center will continue seeking grants and other support to fund its work. Securing consistent funding, such as a fee collected with license renewals, remains a top priority for 2013, Pitts said.

"We are not only existing, given our funding was cut, but we are growing," Brunell said. "We are at a point with our data and information where we are spotting trends."


Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email editorSouth@nurse.com.