By Tommie Norris, DNS, RN

Florida along with other states across the United States is experiencing a nursing shortage. Florida is one of the states with the highest number of nurse openings. Relying on travel and foreign nurses has quickly increased the cost of nursing care. The Florida Hospital Association and Safety Net Hospitals project that Florida will face a shortage of more than 59,000 nurses by 2035 which includes a shortfall of 21,700 Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). Florida’s aging population has added a critical need for more nurses.

The Benjamin Leon School of Nursing (BLSON) is tasked with a 40 per cent growth which encompasses the certified nursing assistant (CNA), the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and the Associate Degree Registered Nurse (RN) and the RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN). Beginning with the Fall 2022 semester, the BLSON once again began admitting to the LPN Program after being closed for several years. The LPN program is a 12-month program with a strong emphasis on theory and practice. Students have the opportunity to learn in the hospital, palliative care/hospice, extended care, and specialties such as mental health, obstetrics, and pediatrics. LPNs perform a wide range of professional duties such as taking vital signs, medication administration, dressing changes, assisting with activities of daily living such as bathing and ambulation, and basic nursing care. Practice partners across a variety of settings supported the need to train LPNs to help fill the ever-growing nursing gap. Working under the supervision of the RN, the LPN is employed in many areas including acute care, long term care, community health centers, outpatient centers, and doctor offices.

Becoming an LPN is an excellent career choice to enter the health care setting. Because the LPN has fewer admission requirements, such as prerequisites, allowing one to enter and complete the LPN in a much shorter time than for the RN, making it a desirable alternative. LPNs are well respected members of the healthcare team. LPNs enjoy providing direct patient care and can specialize by certification in areas such as IV therapy. When the LPN decides to return to school to obtain an RN degree, most nursing schools provide the LPN with prior learning assessment credit which can reduce the length of the nursing program, some as much as 10 credit hours toward the ASN program. Employers may also provide tuition reimbursement should the LPN return to pursue the ASN degree. Licensed practical nurses in South Florida enjoy an average salary of $54,458 which increases with experience. The BLSON has enjoyed an interest from our graduating CNAs, to pursue the LPN. This pipeline from CNA to LPN to RN allows individuals to advance and upskills in the nursing profession.

Dr. Tommie L. Norris, DNS, RN, is an AACN Leadership for Academic Nursing Fellow, Miami Dade College, and Dean, Benjamín Leόn School of Nursing.