Accelerated nursing program at UF Health addresses nursing shortages in Jacksonville

UF is making a major impact in Jacksonville, graduating a growing number of nursing students who are fulfilling the city’s critical health care needs. 

As Florida faces a long-term nursing shortage, the UF College of Nursing is expanding its offerings to strengthen recruitment and keep high-quality nurses at the UF Health Jacksonville facility. 

The college offers an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or B.S.N., degree, which allows students with a baccalaureate degree or higher in another field to pursue a baccalaureate degree in nursing. The program is offered at the Gainesville and Jacksonville campuses.

“We at the College of Nursing are proud to play a significant role in not only preparing nurses to enter the workforce, but also preparing nurses who will meet the challenges of health care head-on,” said UF College of Nursing interim Dean Debra Lyon, Ph.D.

The Jacksonville campus recently welcomed its largest cohort of Accelerated B.S.N. students, a notable 38% increase from 2022. The campus plans to expand class sizes in the coming years to double the current enrollment to 80.

“The Accelerated B.S.N. program in Jacksonville has proven the advantages of investing in student nurses who remain committed to the community,” Lyon said.

The college’s enrollment increase is a direct result of the Prepping Institutions, Programs, Employers and Learners through Incentives for Nursing Education, or PIPELINE, funding, received in 2022 from the Florida Legislature to expand the nursing workforce. 

As Florida’s older population grows, the health care profession is grappling with the number of nurses who left the field during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research estimates that 30% of the Florida population will be ages 60 and older by the year 2030, up from about 27% currently. Nurses are in high demand, and UF is consistently filling that need.

Throughout the past seven years, 115 nursing students were hired at UF Health Jacksonville and nearly 70% are still employed, a significant number compared with the national turnover rate of 24% for nurses after just one year of employment.

The Academic Partnership Unit, or APU, is an innovative nursing program at UF Health Jacksonville, helping build relationships between health care workers and hospitals (starting from the time nurses are students). UF Health Jacksonville is one of two hospitals in the nation with this program. Now in its seventh year, the APU at UF Health Jacksonville allows nursing leaders to assess, evaluate, and recruit student nurses.

“Professors in the program take an active role in teaching us, and also take the time to get to know us and cultivate a relationship where we feel comfortable talking to them about our concerns,” said College of Nursing student Alfredo Marroquin. “One of my favorite parts is how close the cohort is. Everyone is willing to help each other and we all want each other to succeed.”

Marroquin, who is originally from California, hopes to stay and work in the emergency department at UF Health Jacksonville — a Level 1 adult and pediatric trauma center.

Earlier this year, UF announced a plan to explore creating a new graduate campus in Jacksonville focused on the introduction of innovative programs in medicine, business, and engineering.

“I am excited about the many opportunities as we look to expand enrollment and continue to improve how nursing education is delivered,” Lyon said.

Brittany Sylvestri November 7, 2023