Posted on Jun 2, 2021

USF Health College of Nursing aims to impact nursing shortage caused in part by COVID-19 through undergraduate program adjustments

USF Health College of Nursing aims to impact nursing shortage caused in part by COVID-19 through undergraduate program adjustments

The USF Health College of Nursing is streamlining its undergraduate program to have a greater impact on reversing local and national nursing shortage trends. The college has announced it will expand the number of baccalaureate students to be admitted in the traditional and accelerated nursing pathways and phase out its online RN (registered nurse) to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) pathway. These changes will significantly increase the pipeline of new nurses into the nursing workforce.

The national nursing shortage has been a concern for several years, but that shortage has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 1.1 million new nurses are needed by 2022.

“After a difficult pandemic, it is no surprise that the nursing profession has taken a tremendous toll,” said Usha Menon, PhD, dean of the College of Nursing and senior associate vice president of USF Health. “Nationally and in Florida, nurses are leaving the profession altogether or are retiring earlier than anticipated. It’s reported that more than 22 percent of nurses will leave within the next year.”

This dramatic increase in the nursing shortage led the college to review the undergraduate program for opportunities to meet the demand in Florida. College leadership determined that the most strategic modification would be to increase the number of seats for its pre-licensure paths, which lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and to phase out the RN to BSN undergraduate completion pathway, which allows licensed nurses in the workforce to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Adding additional pre-licensure students to the BSN program should increase the number of USF Health College of Nursing graduate nurses entering the workforce by 24 percent.

“With this increased community demand for new USF-prepared nurses, it made sense for us to re-allocate our resources to respond to our community’s needs,” Menon said. “We will, however, work individually with students currently in the RN to BSN pathway to ensure their timely graduation.”

This reallocation of resources will allow the college to increase enrollment of both the traditional and second degree entry points across all three USF campuses—Tampa, Sarasota-Manatee, and St. Petersburg. Enrollment of qualified candidates will increase by 20 percent in Tampa and double at both Sarasota-Manatee and St. Petersburg.

The RN to BSN pathway will begin to be phased out in the Fall 2021 with the final cohort graduating in Summer 2023. Increased enrollment in the college’s other BSN programs has already begun.