Lawmakers look to education to ease healthworker shortage

TALLAHASSEE — Lawmakers are mulling ways to help bolster education and training programs for nurses and other health care professionals to address an ongoing staffing crisis in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Industry leaders warned the Senate Committee on Health Policy on Wednesday that worker shortages are driving up costs and leading to employee burnout.

“Staffing has been and continues to be one of the biggest challenges,” Florida Hospital Association president and CEO Mary Mayhew told the Senate panel. “So as hospitals have the ability to bring in beds, to convert space, to convert cafeterias, to convert conference rooms — you still have to have the nurses and the doctors to staff those beds, to meet the needs of those patients.”

Mayhew said an “indescribable” strain on medical professionals, compounded by a sharp increase in hospitalizations caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus over the summer, contributed to a 25% turnover rate among nurses in Florida. The turnover rate is at 30 percent among nurses in intensive care and critical care units, she said.

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