Published: Jan 20, 2011 2:22 AM EST
Updated: Jan 19, 2011 11:22 PM EST

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Nursing jobs remain in high demand across the nation and in Southwest Florida.

The Florida Center for Nursing expects a steady increase in the need for nurses over the next 15 years, regardless of the economy.  Now more schools are stepping up, hoping to fill the expected shortages.

"Nursing school is hard to get into, there's not a lot of schools around here," said student Maggie Green.

In classrooms filled with complex terms and equipment, nursing requires plenty of learning.  But for many nursing students, simply finding a nursing program is their first challenge.

"The demand of students to get in was so high compared to the number of teachers (at other schools). And availability they had to teach us," said student Tami Janicki.

Janicki and Green are part of a new program at Rasmussen College in Fort Myers, one of the latest in Southwest Florida addressing the growing need for nurses.

"As the economy strengthens, there'll be a shift of the existing nurses retiring and choosing to stay at home," said Juli Daniels, Ph.D, the dean of Rasmussen's nursing program.  "As a result there will be a great need."

Demand will increase with an aging patient population too.  But training new nurses nationwide has been difficult without enough teachers.

"There's a huge shortage of nursing faculty, that's the reason colleges are struggling to provide quality nursing programs," Daniels said.

Now more programs are emerging, and more people are answering the call.

"Anybody will tell you to get into the medical field, especially with this kind of economy," said student Josette Solieri.

These students know, in just two years of schooling in the RN program, they'll have a reliable, well-paying career.

"I'm not nervous about job security after this," Janicki said.  "There's so many avenues."

Rasmussen also offers an online Bachelor's program in nursing.