Partnering with Schools - Nursing Recruitment Programs Have The Right Stuff


Building tomorrow's work force today is catching on

Marcia Heroux Pounds
Business Strategies

May 31, 2007

Nursing was Orlando Betancourt's second career choice. Initially, he wanted to be an X-ray technician.

But then he saw an opportunity in nursing, signing for a nursing program at Miami Dade College sponsored by Baptist Health South Florida. He went on for his bachelor's degree at Barry University. Now he's working on his master's.

"I love it," Betancourt says. "And no student loans."

Baptist paid for his college education. In return, he committed to working for the Miami hospital organization for two years. "This is a place I'd like to work," says Betancourt, 34, who recently was named the critical care unit's "nurse of the year."

Miami-based Baptist is facing the nursing shortage head on through education partnerships with South Florida universities. The health-care organization has had a successful partnership since 2001 with Miami Dade College, funding associate degrees for nursing candidates. Nurses can then earn bachelor's degrees through an on-site nursing program sponsored by Barry University.

Last week, Baptist announced a new program: sponsoring 80 nursing scholarships to entry-level students pursuing a bachelor's of science in nursing at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. NSU will offer the classes at South Miami Hospital. The program is one of many partnerships between South Florida universities and businesses that are proactive in building a future work force.

"We're now bumping it up to the next level," says Maria Suárez, manager of Baptist Health's scholars program.

At the same time, "we're helping Nova by providing them full-time three faculty members," Suárez says. "There's a nursing shortage -- even more than that there's a faculty shortage."

After graduation, the Baptist scholarship students will be required to work for three years for the health-care organization or they have to pay back the scholarship. Through the program, students "learn the philosophy and culture of Baptist Health," Suárez says.

Baptist also works with other Florida universities, offering $7,500 scholarships plus lab fees and books to qualified nursing students. This month, 60 of those students graduated with two-year commitments to work at Baptist.

It's not a new idea for business to work with educators to create a future work force. But the concept is taking on new dimensions in South Florida with a more urgent need for qualified workers, especially in the health-care and science fields.

When The Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, Calif., opened its campus in Jupiter, for example, it quickly struck up a partnership with Florida Atlantic University, which now hosts Scripps Florida on its Jupiter campus.

Currently, there are eight collaborations with Scripps under way, FAU reports. Faculty and students work with Scripps scientists on research aimed at cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases.

At Florida International University in Miami, the nursing shortage is being addressed by several scholarship programs. FIU has nursing scholarship programs with Mount Sinai Medical Center, Miami Children's Hospital and HCA Inc.

"It's a collective mission in our community to augment the nursing work force," says Divina Grossman, dean of FIU's College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

"Baby Boomer"-age nurses are rapidly retiring, she says. If these nurses are not replaced, "the shortage is not only going to continue, it's also going to get worse."

Marcia Heroux Pounds can be reached at mpounds@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6650.

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