FHA aims to bolster Florida’s nurse workforce through training, legislative initiatives


Shane Ersland


Florida hospitals are struggling to supplement their nurse workforces as workplace violence and other issues are causing high turnover rates. But Florida Hospital Association (FHA) President and CEO Mary C. Mayhew told State of Reform that some relief could come in the form of training initiatives and legislation.

FHA finalized an analysis in summer 2022 that showed the state’s registered nurse (RN) turnover rate was 32%, and the vacancy rate was 21%.

“The turnover rate varies with different types of nurses, but the average was 32%,” Mayhew said. “Many hospitals since that time have made great improvements in their nurse rates.

But hospitals are still struggling with the severity of the workforce shortage, and seeing relatively high turnover rates with new nurses in their first year.”

A generational difference in which younger nurses recognize an ability to move quickly from one job to another could be affecting the high turnover rate for new nurses, Mayhew said. 

“You’re investing, as a hospital, a lot of time in the early onboarding and training, but there’s a generational difference in their view of how soon they can move to another job,” she said. “Reevaluating onboarding strategies to decrease turnover rate, and understanding what that 22 or 23-year-old may need as part of that process could help. How you leverage talent at the hospital can also provide greater support for a new nurse.”

FHA is partnering with hospitals, schools, and CareerSource boards to develop ways to support new nurses. 

“CareerSource is a great partnership as we focus on career leaders and pathways, and getting creative around how we support that individual who today may be a (certified nursing assistant) but wants to become an RN,” Mayhew said. “That pathway shouldn’t have to include quitting their job and going to school full-time.

[It’s about] being flexible on how those courses can be supportive, what kind of training they can participate in at their place of work so they can keep their job, and [making sure they] are able to put food on the table and pay their bills while advancing in their education. I had a call with the teams at the nursing schools to keep lines of communication open, and see how we can collaborate more, and advance policy at the state level.”

Following the release of FHA’s RN turnover/vacancy analysis, Gov. Ron DeSantis approved over $125 million for nursing education for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

“The bottom line for our schools is their need, and the challenge, of hiring nurse faculty,” Mayhew said. “That funding provided by the legislature has focused on their ability to recruit more nurse faculty.”

FHA has also spearheaded a legislative effort to protect healthcare staff from violence in the workplace. FHA recruited legislative sponsors and nurses to support Senate Bill 568, which would implement enhanced criminal penalties for people who knowingly commit assault or battery on hospital personnel. Bill sponsor Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) said it aims to strengthen workplace violence protections for hospital employees, including nurses, physicians, and other clinical and nonclinical personnel.

“We are very encouraged at the support it has received in the House and Senate to date, and are hopeful it will make it across the finish line and to the governor’s desk,” Mayhew said. “We hear about [workplace violence] all the time, and the severity has been incredibly discouraging. Being a nurse is a difficult job in the best of times, but certainly what many experienced through the pandemic added far more stress and trauma to the work. 

Today we are seeing incredible demands on hospitals with patients who are extremely ill, and the volume of patients still being relatively high. It’s an incredibly challenging job, only made more difficult with our staff dealing with physical and verbal abuse.”

Members of the Senate Committee on Health Policy unanimously passed SB 568 on March 20th, and it is now in the Senate Rules Committee.