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Proposed Nursing Program At TCC Could Address Quality, But Not Quantity Of Local Nurses

A young woman practices on a dummy.
Tallahassee Community College
A TCC student trains to be a nurse

Tallahassee Memorial Hospital has a problem:

“Our BSN nurses that come to us from FAMU and FSU typically don’t stay more than two years. They’re not local people," says TMH's head of nursing, Barbara Alford.

The hospital faces a shortage of undergraduate degree holding nurses, because the ones it does receive from the universities tend to move on quickly.

The National Institute of Medicine has set a goal of having 80 percent of registered nurses also having a bachelor’s degree by 2020. TMH has set the same goal for its nurses as well.   Increasing pressure on hospital finances and a greater desire to boost health outcomes have hospitals across the country working on ways to save money—and a big way to do that is keeping patients healthy. Nurses contribute greatly to that area—and the better trained and educated a nurse is, the better they are at doing their jobs:

“Evidence has shown and research has shown that nurses who are bachelor’s prepared, their patients  have better health outcomes, so why wouldn’t you hire a BSN nurse? My problem is, for this particular hospital, there aren’t enough out there to hire," Alford said.

Right now only about four percent of TMH nurses have advanced degrees. Another 54 percent have bachelor’s degrees. That still leaves more than a third of the hospital’s nurses without an undergraduate degree.  For many of them, that means going back to school, as Tallahassee Community College’s Lei Wang, Associate VP of Institutional Effectiveness, explains:

“Our program will be more affordable, more efficient, and shorter, because, we already have two years general education here.” 

The proposed program at TCC is called an RN-to-BSN program. That’s where people already registered as nurses can earn their bachelor’s degree.

Both Florida State and Florida A&M University have nursing programs. And yet, neither school is opposed to TCC setting up a third one.  That’s because FAMU and FSU get theirs students nationally and internationally, while those who attend TCC are more local.

But while TCC’s proposed nursing program is aimed at boosting the quality and consistency of nurses, it may not be able to address the shortage issues facing the region. FSU’s interim nursing program chief Dianne Speake says, in the short term, she doesn’t see a way to increase the nursing workforce.

“We only have two hospitals here, and half a dozen nursing program all competing to put students in the hospitals. We’re pretty well locked in in Tallahassee in terms of the numbers of student nurses that can be accommodated at one time. So none of the programs are able to grow their programs to grow new nurses given the constraints we have.”  

TCC officials will host a 3rd public meeting in Havana on October 30th to discuss the school’s future goals.


For more news updates, follow Lynn Hatter on twitter @HatterLynn

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.