CONGRESSWOMAN CASTOR TOUTS NEW NURSING PROGRAM
Oct 27, 2008 -
A new nursing academy will help alleviate the state’s nursing shortage, offer care to wounded veterans and create high-paying jobs in the Tampa Bay area, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said today.
“It marries a number of missions,” Castor said. “This is a wonderful, wonderful new initiative."
At the James A. Haley VA Hospital, Castor announced a new nursing academy partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of South Florida.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has provided $3.5 million to USF’s College of Nursing to establish the VA Nursing Academy. The money allows Haley and the nursing college to hire five faculty members. That, in turn, allows the school to enroll more nursing students.
As a result of the program, 100 new nurses are expected to graduate with their baccalaureate degrees in the next four years. Those new nurses can expect starting salaries at about $50,000, Castor said.
“These are high-paying jobs for our community,” Castor said. “These are good paying jobs with good benefits.”
The nursing students do clinical work at Haley, where they gain first-hand experience treating our nation’s veterans. They will be exposed to specialized services including mental health and spinal cord injury care. Haley officials hope the nursing students will eventually work at the VA hospital.
The program has three main goals: to expand teaching faculty, to improve recruitment and retention of nurses, and to create new educational and research opportunities.
Florida’s nursing shortage is acute. The state is short nearly 13,000 registered nurses this year. By 2020, the shortage is expected to reach more than 52,000, according to the Florida Center for Nursing.
Part of the problem is nursing schools are forced to turn away qualified applicants. In 2007, for example, nursing schools had to say no to more than 40,000 qualified applicants, primarily because the schools didn’t have enough faculty members to teach the aspiring nurses, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Students enrolled in the VA Nursing Academy are eligible to apply for $10,000 scholarships awarded through USF’s College of Nursing and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The Nursing Academy initiative underscores Castor’s work on higher education, health care and military affairs. Castor pushed for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which provides loan forgiveness to students entering careers in public service – including nursing. Congress also allocated $2.4 million for a program through the College of Nursing to help veterans cope with emotional health and other problems.