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Report: Florida’s nursing shortage rebounding after pandemic

ORLANDO, Fla. — Data shows Florida’s nursing shortage is rebounding. Throughout the pandemic, Florida’s nursing shortage stretched hospital staff thin.

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More than 200 Florida hospitals disclosed data to the Florida Hospital Association, showing an average 38% decrease in vacancy rates among nurses just in the last year.

The shortage has been a large problem, particularly in Florida because of the demand for healthcare among the state’s aging population. Nearly 20 percent of the state’s population is 65 and over. Florida has the second highest number of seniors in the U.S.

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In 2019, Florida was already more than 11,000 nurses short based on demand.

The pandemic only exacerbated that. As COVID cases rose, nurses left the industry or retired early, citing exhaustion, burn out and in adequate pay.

Channel 9 heard from nurses during the height of the shortage about the challenges.

“It’s been really heavy emotionally,” said one nurse in 2021.

“It’s gotten worse and worse. We don’t have enough staff. I work nights. We don’t have a secretary, CNA, or tech. It’s got to a point where nurses were doing a lot of things wearing all sorts of hats,” said a nurse that only wanted to be named by her first name Belle, in a 2022 interview.

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But this year, data shows hospitals are rebounding more than 200 hospitals were surveyed. Of those, hospitals reported an average shortage of about 13% of nursing staff.

It’s a dramatic improvement compared to 2022 when Florida’s hospitals reported being short more than a fifth of their nursing workforce.

Now, the state’s vacancy rate is 3 percent lower than the national rate.

Data also shows Florida hospitals are retaining nurses at a higher rate than the national average.

The Florida Hospital Association hospital credits the improvement on the healthcare industry, nursing schools, and the state’s commitment to recruit more nurses. This year, the state legislature approved $125 million to boost nursing schools.

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Florida Hospital Association says though these numbers are a step in the right direction, the healthcare industry is not out of the woods. Florida is expected to see a population boom with an estimated 25 million residents in the next 10 years.

A 2021 report by the Association projected the state will be short nearly 60,000 nurses by 2035.

FHA stated in a social media post this week, the state needs to continue invest in the current and future workforce.

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