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USF Expanding Enrollment In Nursing Program To Meet Growing Need

A nursing student from USF holds a clipboard while speaking to a patient who is in a car.
Jessica Samaniego
/
University of South Florida
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 1.1 million new nurses will be needed by 2022.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused nurses to leave the profession or retire and federal officials estimate there will be a need for 1.1 million new nurses by 2022.

The University of South Florida College of Nursing is expanding enrollment in response to a nationwide shortage of nurses due in part to the coronavirus pandemic.

Health care professionals have played a major role in the nation’s response to the pandemic but it has taken a toll, especially on frontline workers like nurses.

The pandemic caused many nurses to leave the profession or retire early. According to the university, more than 22% of nurses nationally are expected to leave the industry within the next year.

“The pandemic demonstrated that nurses were one of the very first professions to answer the call in health care in this dire situation,” said Catherine Belden, the assistant dean of USF’s undergraduate nursing program. “However, I believe that there has been a degree of exhaustion amongst the profession.”

The shortage has alarmed both health care professionals and those in academia because it comes at a time when nurses are needed more than ever, Belden said. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 1.1 million new nurses will be needed by 2022.

”So, we want to make sure that we are addressing that need and making sure that we have professionals at the bedside for our patients and for the public,” Belden said.

A national nursing shortage had been an ongoing concern due to widespread changes within the health care industry in recent years and policy approaches toward heath, Belen said. COVID-19 exacerbated the issue.

Over the past year, entire sectors of the health care system have been affected by the shortage, with urgent and long-term care being hit the hardest.

With the increased demand for nurses in the community, the university is already seeing interest for new graduates, Belden said.

The college is freeing up space for new degree-seeking undergraduates by phasing out a program that helps registered nurses earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

Belden said the changes should increase the number of nurses graduating from USF and entering the workforce by 24%.

The change will increase the pipeline of new nurses into the workforce to help address the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing nursing shortage.

“I feel that we need to just be ahead of the curve, and we envision the program here at USF and the College of Nursing is going to continue to excel and grow,” Belden said. “I think that we've had a lot of lessons learned over the last year, not just in nursing academia, but in health care in general, that we can't take anything for granted. We need to be prepared at the moment for every occurrence as much as feasibly possible.”

Reallocating resources will allow the college to increase enrollment of both traditional and second-degree-seeking students across all three USF campuses — Tampa, Sarasota-Manatee and St. Petersburg. Enrollment will increase by 20% in Tampa and double at both Sarasota-Manatee and St. Petersburg.

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