By Daniel Casciato
In the face of challenges such as nursing shortages and the need for enhanced collaboration, the Nursing Consortium of Florida has emerged as a pivotal force in addressing these issues and strengthening the nursing community.
Founded in 1997 as the South Florida Nursing Shortage Consortium, the organization has grown to include 74 member organizations, including hospitals, schools of nursing, nurse staffing agencies, and providers of hospice services. Guided by a mission to promote collaboration and address opportunities for strengthening nursing services, the Consortium focuses on critical areas. In addition, it implements signature programs to support its goals.
Formation and Evolution
The roots of the Nursing Consortium of Florida can be traced back to nursing’s response to the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Ralph Egües, Jr., Executive Director of the Consortium, highlighted this origin and adds, “Led by the faculty of the University of Miami’s School of Nursing, many nurse leaders from hospitals and schools of nursing throughout South Florida met and collaborated for the first time. That experience gave eventual rise to the South Florida Nursing Shortage Consortium in 1997.”
In the decades since, the association has grown and evolved, and in early 2022 it became the Nursing Consortium of Florida.
Membership and Focus
The Nursing Consortium of Florida currently boasts 74 organizational members, including hospitals, accredited schools of nursing, nurse staffing agencies, and providers of hospice services. These member organizations and their employees benefit from collaborative opportunities and participation in various Consortium committees.
The Consortium addresses its primary focus areas by convening committees of member employees. Current committees include Advocacy, Community Engagement, Conference Planning, Recruitment & Retention, and Youth Initiatives. Additionally, the Consortium manages a centralized placement system that facilitates the scheduling of clinical experiences for student nurses and allied health professions students.
The Consortium’s signature programs—”Day in the Life of a Nurse™” and CCPS the web-based system for managing student nurse clinical experiences— have significantly contributed to nursing education and career exploration.
The “Day in the Life of a Nurse™” program, established in 1999, offers middle and high school students a unique opportunity to gain insight into the nursing profession.
“For more than 20 years Day in the Life of a Nurse™ has provided middle and high school students with a one-day peek at the world of nursing. Students learn about the many career opportunities within the nursing profession through facility tours, presentations, a shadowing experience, and small group interaction with nurses or nursing students,” Egües explains. “During the pandemic, Day in the Life of a Nurse™ was transformed into a two-week long virtual experience for students and teachers in remote locations and now also includes interactive modules for teachers to use in a classroom setting. The virtual Day in the Life of a Nurse™ increased our reach fivefold, so we’ve continued to offer it even after resuming the in-person experiences.”
Additionally, addressing the challenges faced by nursing schools and hospitals, Egües highlights the impact of the web-based Centralized Clinical Placement System (CCPS), adding, “The CCPS addresses the needs of nursing schools and hospitals seeking a uniform easy-to-use system for scheduling nursing student clinical experiences. Today CCPS links more than 120 Florida hospitals and schools of nursing and helps to maximize the use of available clinical space.”
These innovative programs demonstrate the Consortium’s commitment to providing practical experiences and efficient systems that contribute to the growth and development of nursing professionals.
Addressing Challenges and Ensuring Quality Care
The COVD-19 pandemic exacerbated the nursing shortage in South Florida and created new challenges for the profession. Jean Seaver, board president of the Nursing Consortium of Florida, acknowledges these challenges, emphasizing the need for innovative solutions and collaboration.
“The pandemic experience caused or exacerbated multiple fractures along an already fragile and under-resourced nurse pipeline,” she says. “New initiatives are needed to better engage prospective nursing students, to more fully staff nursing schools, to improve the quality of nursing student clinical experiences, to restructure onboarding programs, to develop more collaborative models of nursing care, to better resource the nurse manager role, and to adopt greater scheduling flexibility.”
Building a Stronger Future
“Our youth outreach programs have had an impact in bringing the nursing profession into better focus for middle and high school students and their teachers and parents,” says Egües.
He also highlights the collaborative culture among member organizations, stating, “We’ve long fostered a vision that in good times and bad, we get to better together. Our association has grown significantly the last few years because nurse leaders in neighboring counties saw the value of the work underway at the Consortium and the benefit of participating in it.”
Seaver agrees, “The collaboration between academia and practice makes us stronger in understanding the needs and improving the education, onboarding of new nurses, and practice of nursing. As the Consortium grows, so does our influence in shaping nursing for the future healthcare needs of our community.”
Egües adds that a number of the interventions they envisioned to deal with the current challenges are already being piloted at member organizations.
“We’re also increasingly engaged with funders and community leaders who wish to better understand the nursing shortage challenges and invest in helpful solutions that can make a difference. This too is an important function of the Consortium,” he notes.
According to Seaver, the ease of communication and collaboration between the academic and practice partners only helps to build better programs to support the nursing profession.
“Best practices are shared and help augment what each member is doing. The collective efforts make a difference in our community,” she says. “Our goal is ever better healthcare, and great clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction cannot be achieved without great nursing.”
For more information, visit nursingconsortium.us.