In the next 30 years, figures show the fastest growing demographic in the Sarasota-Manatee region will be people 80 or older. In addition, just 31 percent of the nurses currently there have baccalaureate degrees.
The University of South Florida Health College of Nursing hopes to remedy both of those issues by offering its program at its Sarasota-Manatee campus.
Under an agreement announced Thursday, USF Sarasota-Manatee will offer a pre-nursing curriculum for the first two years of the program. Then, graduates of that program will complete their baccalaureate nursing degree at either the Tampa or Sarasota-Manatee campuses.
USF Health College of Nursing Dean, Dr. Victoria Rich, said the goal is to educate and then keep well-trained nurses in the region south of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
"We're counting on that we're going to now have opportunities for students that live in those areas to now go to college in that area and then stay in the hospitals in those areas," Rich said.
"The baccalaureate-prepared nurse really impacts the outcomes of care," she added. "Research shows the more such nurses you have taking care of patients, you actually decrease morbidity and mortality -- the types of illnesses they have, when they go home, how safe they feel, the number of medications that they live on, and also death rates."
USF Sarasota-Manatee will begin offering the pre-nursing curriculum this fall and will recruit faculty to start the upper level program in 2020. USFSM will also develop a basic clinical skills laboratory on campus this summer.
“It is exciting to collaborate with the USF Health College of Nursing to expand opportunities for students to ultimately obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus,” said Dr. Paul Kirchman, dean of the USFSM College of Science and Mathematics. “Our community has been asking for this, and I am thankful that our regional chancellor, Dr. Karen Holbrook, and Dr. Rich supported the development of a pathway to make this happen.”
In addition, students will be able to apply to receive a scholarship of up to $2,500 each year, or up to $10,000 over a four-year period.
“This is a perfect example of the benefits of reunification, and how we can meet the needs of our students and the community,” Holbrook added. “We are very appreciative of the generous donors who helped make the scholarships possible, and we look forward to welcoming our first cohort of students in the fall.”
Rich said the initial goal is to graduate as many as fifty nurses per year.