On December 12, 2022, Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) was awarded a $21.8 million grant from Triumph Gulf Coast, making it the largest grant the college has ever received.
- The college will use the funds to double the capacity of their nationally-recognized nursing program.
- The entire project cost is estimated to be $51,024,260.
NWFSC’s Nursing Program Expansion project seeks to address the shortage of nurses in the region and the country. Speaking at a FWB Rotary meeting earlier this year, NWFSC President Dr. Devin Stephenson said that the “State of Florida is in a healthcare crisis.” He says that by 2035, there will be a shortage of nearly 60,000 nurses in the state.
After a conversation of Don Gaetz, Dr. Stephenson’s team to put together a proposal that would respond to the shortage in Northwest Florida, as well as in the state.
Speaking before the Triumph Board of Directors, Dr. Stephenson said that he, along with members of this team, have personally met with area hospital CEOs and CNOs about the shortage problem.
“They’ve told us that they expect the need for nurses to outpace the region’s entire production,” he said. “The graduates who want a nursing position can surely secure one.”
According to Stephenson, the average wage rate for a nurse today is $62,000, not counting the signing bonus that can be as much as $10,000. He noted that 25% of the current registered nurse workforce is aged 55 and older.
NWFSC seeks to increase the number of students by 88% by the year 2026.
The College intends to increase Associate in Science in Nursing program admissions by 88%, growing from 96 nursing student enrollments per year to 180 by 2026. It will also increase Bachelor of Science admissions by 100%, growing from 50 student enrollments per year to 100 by 2026.
According to application submitted to Triumph, the nursing project aims to strengthen partnerships with healthcare facilities, embed certificates in the nursing program without lengthening time-to-degree completion, develop new certifications relevant to the healthcare industry, and implement stackable credentials, including those on the 2022-2023 CAPE list.
The project will also focus on innovative, simulation-based teaching methods and virtual reality technology to enhance the quality and impact of instruction across all health sciences programs. Investments in this infrastructure positions the region to lead health care education.
- Additionally, the virtual reality software will be made available to other educational institutions throughout the Triumph region, with the potential for the College to support the expanded application and use of the software in a training center capacity.
“We’ve built in a Nursing Simulation Center using teaching technology of virtual reality,” said Dr. Stephenson to the board. “What we know, based on research, is it will reduce the cost, it will create training efficiencies, and it will shorten the time to degree completion. These individuals will make fewer mistakes when they’re working on you and I in the doctor’s offices and in the hospitals.”
- It will also support the ongoing, continuing education for working nurses. As a result, Dr. Stephenson says they can accelerate the response in turning around the shortage.
In addition to providing increased onramps to the program through articulation agreements with secondary education partners, the college also hopes to prepare students for continued education with university partners and expand its partnerships with healthcare facility partners to enrich training programs and expand the workforce.
- The college plans to seek external funding to support the project, including federal and state grants, industry partnerships, and private donations.
- The College received $13.8 million in state-appropriated PECO (Public Education Capital Outlay) funds and PIPELINE funds to support this project.
- Further, the College is providing future tuition revenue generated as a result of the enrollment growth as match, according to NWFSC.
As a result of the Nursing Program Expansion project, the College will award at least 4,000 certifications over 11 years across various health sciences program areas. Design work for the renovation of the existing facility has already begun, and work is currently underway to relocate employees and programs within the building to ensure renovations begin in March 2023.
“It means a great deal to me as a lifelong educator and to this institution, and I believe this is a transformational grant,” said Stephenson in his closing remarks to the board. “We receive it humbly, and I promise you, we will deliver it with a highest quality and integrity that we possibly can.”