New St. Leo program focuses on training, retaining nurses amid shortage

In order to alleviate the nursing shortage, the state of Florida is investing in nursing programs in order to attract more competent candidates.

According to a Florida Hospital Association report, the state will be short 59,000 nurses in the next 12 years.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said earlier this year that over $80 million would be allocated to nursing education, which includes dozens of programs around the state, including a new program at St. Leo University.

St. Leo’s first nursing class has just begun their junior year and the program’s hands-on training.

Grace Lundfelt, a student in the program, said she discovered her passion for nursing after taking a biology class at Land O’ Lakes High School and working in the BayCare emergency department. Knowing that nurses are in such high demand gives her peace of mind, she says.

“It’s reassuring to know that, once we graduate, we’re going to have somewhere to go,” she stated.

“Somewhere’s going to need us, and someone’s going to want us.”

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St. Leo University’s nursing program receives $740,000 from the state budget. According to school officials, the monies will be used to expand the program and create a permanent area for students to conduct classroom simulations.

“We saw how important it was for nurses to be resilient, for nurses to manage stress.,” she said “During COVID, we saw nurses leaving the profession. It’s important to us to help students build the skills they need to be happy in their choice, so they have a long career in nursing as well.”

School officials say they want to hire 200 nurses in the next five years.

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