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UNF receives substantial legislative funding to combat nursing shortage

Two nursing students observing a professor demonstrate a wellness checkThe University of North Florida has been awarded matching State legislative funding of nearly $800K based upon the School of Nursing's (SON) successful healthcare partnerships with Mayo Clinic, HCA Healthcare South Atlantic Division and Baptist Health.  

The Florida legislative budget allowance and Linking Industry to Nursing Education (LINE) Fund is contributing to nursing program enhancements including growing scholarships for UNF nursing students, opening the UNF MedNexus Deerwood Simulation Center, developing cohorts of undergraduate nursing students in the UNF accelerated prelicensure program and enhancing the UNF-HCA Simulation Center experience.  

This funding is in addition to the substantial legislative PIPELINE funding received by UNF. In fiscal year 2022-23 and 2023-24, UNF obtained over $3.5 million and $3.3 million, respectively, to further its prelicensure nursing student initiatives, improve simulation equipment and faculty recruitment, foster enrollment growth in nursing and maintain high pass rates on the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.  

State support enabled UNF to award $1 million annually in student scholarships in 2022 and 2023.   

“It is an exciting and historic time for the UNF nursing program, and we are very grateful to the Florida legislature,” said Dr. Michelle Edmonds, SON director. “With the state’s generous investment in our students, faculty and staff, we were able to increase enrollment almost immediately. To combat the nationwide nursing shortage, we welcomed our largest-ever incoming class of 155 pre-licensure BSN students this fall.”   

Nursing student observes professor demonstrate a wellness check on an infant dummyPreviously, students were only able to enroll in the program during May or August of each year. However, in January 2023, the SON admitted 43 students to help alleviate the growing nursing shortage. The SON plans to double that number in the coming year. With these efforts, the first graduates from this enrollment growth are expected to graduate and enter the nursing field beginning this December.   

“We are so grateful to the faculty and leaders at the UNF Brooks College of Health (BCH) for their outstanding work and unwavering dedication to the field of nursing,” said Dr. Mei Zhao, BCH interim dean. “Their commitment to educating and guiding future nurses as well as their leadership in advancing healthcare is truly commendable.”  

Following the pandemic, Florida hospitals and healthcare systems continue to face critical workforce shortages, exponential growth in labor costs and dependency on temporary staffing. The Florida Hospital Association predicts a shortage in the state of 59,000 nurses by 2035. To combat this issue, the UNF School of Nursing is making a concentrated effort to increase enrollment, enhance simulation learning centers and remove barriers to education through scholarships.