Shortage of nurses is a concern for SWFL

After experiencing a shortage of nurses for the past few years, southwest Florida is seeing an uptick in RNs in the area.

A new study released by Workforce says that Southwest Florida is minimizing the employment gap for registered nurses.

It’s also the first time in three years, they’ve found no gap with healthcare workers as a whole.

“We have to increase the numbers but not decrease the quality,” says Deborah Selman, who is Interim Associate Dean Nursing Administrator at Florida Southwest.

Although the numbers are good as of now in SWFL, the demand for nurses will likely increase in the years ahead.

“That number is growing. The numbers are growing because 40% of our nursing population are going to be retiring in the next 10 years'” said Selman.

Rural hospitals, like Hendry Regional Medical Center have a hard time attracting more nurses to keep positions filled.

“Recruiting nurses to small, rural hospitals is a challenge anywhere you are,” said R.D Williams, CEO of Hendry Regional Medical Center.

Citing that the pay might not be as good as other hospitals like the ones in Lee County or Collier Counties.

They try to offer more benefits and a better lifestyle to make up for not being able to pay as much as others.

Lauren Huff, Lee Health’s Sourcing Recruiter for Nursing and Allied Health gave the following statement about nursing staff in Lee County:

“Although Lee Health currently has a very low vacancy rate for bedside RNs at 1.54%, we continue to expand our health system and require additional bedside RNs. That increased need for RNs due to population growth in the area is compounded with baby boomers retiring and an increasing need nationwide for the aging population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2014-2024, Registered Nursing (RN) is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2024. The RN workforce is expected to grow from 2.7 million in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2024, an increase of 439,300 or 16%.

Lee Health offers Nursing Residency programs about every six weeks for newly graduating RNs as well as programs for current RNs to learn new specialties, such as Intensive Care Units, Neurology, Oncology, and many others. The majority of those positions are filled by graduating students from our local colleges. In past years, Lee Health has hired up to 300 RNs annually through our renowned Nursing Residency Program. We regularly recruit local RNs through a variety of marketing methods including open houses, hiring blitzes, visits to local colleges, social media and other digital media.

Lee Health hired over 500 RNs who were new to our system in the last fiscal year, Oct. ’16 – ‘Oct. ’17. With two weeks left in our fiscal year, we are on track to hire around 400. Our vacancy rate for bedside RNs have continued to drop over the last two years. This is attributed to our organization offering RNs market competitive pay, exceptional benefits package, evidence-based practice, and hiring those who reflect the same values and mission as the organization.

Other than general replacement needs throughout the health system, we are currently recruiting RNs and other healthcare professionals for our two new facilities opening in December, the Coconut Point Health & Wellness Center, and Gulf Coast Medical Center’s Skilled Nursing Unit.”

And Jill Gaffoli, System Director of Human Resources for Physicians Regional Healthcare System added:

“At times, recruiting and hiring nurses may be challenging as we compete for limited resources. At Physicians RegionalHealthcare System, we take a proactive approach in recruiting and retaining qualified and highly-skilled nurses to Southwest Florida. We offer sign-on bonuses, tuition reimbursement, competitive salaries and shift differentials, in addition to an outstanding benefit package. We also encourage our employees to help identify new team members and offer a referral bonus for RNs.

Physicians Regional hires seasonal RNs to meet the increased patient volume we experience each year as our winter visitors come to Naples.

We are very fortunate to have a highly trained nursing staff atPhysicians Regional. They are highly valued as part of our patient-centered care team.

We continue to evaluate prepare for our growth. By forming partnerships with our local colleges, and offering training and development programs for career advancement, our nursing team will be ready to face the future.”

Reporter:Channing Frampton