St. Leo University says it will add 200 nurses to the regional workforce by 2026 — its first five years since launching a bachelor's degree program in nursing in 2021.
The college says its fall semester begins on Aug. 28, when dozens of students will begin their junior year in nursing program classes.
The need for nurses has long been addressed by national policymakers. In Florida, the state legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis, area health care and government leaders, and several generous donors have helped St. Leo by providing additional funds to build the bachelor's degree in nursing program, according to a statement.
St. Leo officials pointed to the Florida's 2023-2024 state budget, which includes an appropriation that will provide the university with $740,000 next year to develop the program and address the critical nursing shortage. More than $500,000 has been raised from private donations, bringing the total raised for the nursing program to $1.2 million, say St. Leo officials.
Local officials say the need for new nurses is critical in growing Tampa Bay.
"I see the urgent need for nurses to provide services for people of all ages to support health promotion, disease prevention, and illness care," says Joey Resnick, CEO of Premier Community HealthCare Group. "The St. Leo University bachelor of science in nursing program has a curriculum that aligns with health promotion and the needs of those with chronic and late-stage illnesses. This emphasis will support the needs of the growing population in our region."
An example is that in the spring 2024 semester, nursing students will partner with AdventHealth Zephyrhills.
"The graduates from the St. Leo nursing program will directly impact population health in the state by providing safe, compassionate care all while utilizing best practices and current innovations," says Dr. Robin McGuinness, senior executive officer and chief nurse executive for AdventHealth’s West Florida Division, in a letter of support.
The addition of new nurses to the area will benefit Pasco County, according to Bill Cronin, Pasco Economic Development Council president and CEO.
"In one of our greatest areas of need — health care — it is especially clear that we need our education partners to step up and produce the talent needed for our hospitals and other health care providers to thrive," says Cronin.
In fall 2023, St. Leo students will also have hands-on learning, with juniors learning the skills and studying at simulation labs, and will go to a clinical setting. That will include Blue Heron Senior Living in Wesley Chapel.
St. Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering more than 60 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs and specializations to more than 15,300 students each year. Founded in 1889 in the Benedictine tradition, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing an education to learners of all backgrounds and ages, college officials say.