USF Health College of Nursing, Sarasota Memorial to launch program to address nursing shortage

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Posted at 5:54 PM, Oct 27, 2021

The nursing shortage is affecting the health care industry across the country and in Florida. USF Health’s College of Nursing and Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) are teaming up to make a difference by giving nurses and nursing students the resources they need to help themselves and continue helping the people they care for.

“The COVID-19 pandemic really took a toll on nursing. Nursing is sometimes a very difficult profession anyway, and what we saw was and we still are seeing is a lot of caregiver fatigue,” said Lisa Baumgardner, the Director of Education, Clinical Programs, Magnet and Research at SMH. “Nursing and caregiving, in general, was really pushed to the max during the pandemic.”

In a collaboration between the USF Health College of Nursing and Sarasota Memorial, they will soon launch a program to address the critical workforce shortage due to nurses leaving the profession in record numbers.

The "Excellence in Nursing During COVID-19 and Beyond" program is meant to help improve the working environment for nurses facing burnout and stress as the pandemic presses on.

“It was a lot of stress all at one time, unfortunately, at a time where we really need to be able to count on our caregivers and make sure that they’re whole, that they are cared for, that they are cared for as much as they care for their patients,” said Baumgardner.

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The program will provide small group coaching and resources to help nurses and nursing students handle increased demands and encourage them to stay in the field. It also includes a clinical preceptorship-to-hire program for USF nursing students committed to working at SMH or its new Venice facility after graduation.

Dr. Rayna Letourneau with USF Health’s College of Nursing says research and evidence show new nurses have a hard time transitioning from academia into a professional setting.

“We provide them with additional resources and mentoring and coaching so that we intend to facilitate their transition from academia to practice, then when the hospital hires them, they’ll be better prepared, and they're already knowing a lot of their expectations,” said Letourneau.

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USF Health says support was provided by donors David Kotok and Christine Schlesinger, whose $115,000 gift completed funding for the pilot project following a match challenge. Additionally, they say a $25,000 grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, as well as private gifts and grants from the USF Foundation, helped fund this pilot program.

The program is set to kick off in the spring, hoping to give care to the caregivers during this pandemic and beyond.

“We’re investing in their health and wellness, we’re investing in making sure that we have an adequate supply of nursing so staffing is good, and it’s also good for our community,” said Baumgardner. “If our nurses thrive, the hospital thrives, the community thrives.”

Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation is also currently fundraising for this two-year program at SMH and received a $400,000 matching grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to rally community support.