Gift provides shot in the arm for nursing program

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida recently made a $600,000 gift to UNF’s School of Nursing and the University of Florida’s program to help address the state’s nursing shortage. The majority of the money will be used to train new nurses. UNF also received a $1.2 million SUCCEED grant from the state to increase the number of nurses entering the profession in Florida.

The University will also use the funds to staff a patient-simulation lab at Shands Jacksonville for the clinical education of UNF and University of Florida nursing students and members of the staff at Shands. This will allow the University to increase the enrollment of baccalaureate nursing students, upgrade technology and optimize student placement at clinical sites.

Todd Uhlman, UNF nursing student and first vice president of the Florida Nursing Students’ Association, said the following about the gift in UNF’s student newspaper, the Spinnaker: “It is essential for our success, but more importantly, for the patients.”

With support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the SUCCEED project will increase enrollment in the UNF and University of Florida nursing programs. It’s anticipated that 68 additional students will be admitted to both accelerated baccalaureate programs and to the new clinical nurse leader tracks. “This gift is an example of their [Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida] commitment to nursing,” said Dr. Pam Chally, dean of the College of Health. “Nursing students will be very positively impacted this year, the next year and the year after.”

“This will allow us to bring in more nursing students,” UNF President John Delaney said at a press conference to announce the gift. “We literally have to turn away five qualified nursing applicants for each one we take. And with the incredible need in all the hospitals and doctor’s offices across the state, it’s ridiculous that we have to do that.” The gifts to UNF and UF will each qualify for $420,000 in state matching funds. UNF will use the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida gift to hire a professor who will work with a database which will enable the School of Nursing to match the nursing students’ education to clinical sites in the Jacksonville area.

Florida’s nursing shortage, estimated at 34,000 and expected to hit 61,000 within 15 years, has resulted in a negative impact in the quality and availability of health care. “We recognize how important collaboration is to achieve meaningful progress in easing the nursing shortage,” said Dr. Robert Lufrano, chairman and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida.