Florida Memorial - University of Miami link for nursing program
By Candi Calkins
A nursing program created by the private University of Miami, historically black Florida Memorial College and a non-profit health clinic will train a new generation of nurses to care for Miami-Dade's ethnically diverse population.
"There's an overall nursing shortage and there is an even more shortage of nurses of color," said Anthony E. Munroe, president & CEO of the Economic Opportunity Family Health Center, a member of the new alliance.
"Diversity and cultural proficiency is essential. Health care providers now have to deal with issues of providing culturally congruent" as well as proficient health care, he said. "You need a diverse workplace, especially when you're in a community like South Florida."
Starting this fall, freshmen at Florida Memorial may enroll in a consolidated five-year nursing program leading to two degrees: a bachelor's degree in biology and a nursing degree.
For the first three years, students will take an accelerated biology program that requires summer classes. After completing 90 credits, including biology prerequisites, students must spend two years at UM's School of Nursing to earn a bachelor of science in nursing degree. The 150-credit program includes 60 credits from UM.
Students will gain part of their clinical experience at the Economic Opportunity Family Health Center, a non-profit health care organization serving needy residents and minorities from 14 locations in Miami-Dade County.
Ten to 20 freshmen are expected in the first program this fall. Also, said Diane Horner, dean of UM's School of Nursing, several biology students already at Florida Memorial might be ready to begin nurses' training this fall.
Mr. Munroe said the partnership was designed two years ago in a meeting with the president of Florida Memorial College. Mr. Munroe headed efforts to develop a nursing program for the college, enlisting support from UM and organizing task force meetings.
"It enables students who would be more comfortable in a small liberal arts college than in a major university, it gives them an opportunity to start their studies in that way," said Ms. Horner.
The combination of biology and nursing degrees, she said, prepares students for research fields.
Dean Horner said the program also would enhance diversity of the student body in the nursing school. She said although 70% of students are minorities, most of those are Hispanics.
"This will likely increase the number of African-American nurses," she said. There are few African-American nurses in comparison to the overall population, she said. "It's a real no-fit."
The increased number of nurses also may ease a nursing shortage, said Dean Horner, a member of the Nursing Shortage Consortium of South Florida. According to statistics, Florida needs another 10,000 nurses. About 30% of registered nurses are expected to retire in the next six to eight years.
Some hospitals now limit scheduling of elective surgeries due to the nursing shortage, she said. Qualified nurses can command increasing salaries, sign-on bonuses and overtime incentives.
One obstacle remaining is the need for financial assistance to help students bridge the tuition gap. Mr. Munroe said UM's tuition is about $7,000 higher per year than Florida Memorial's. "That is a significant difference."
His clinic is among hospitals and health care organizations that may contract with students to provide financial assistance in exchange for a promise to work in the local community for a set number of years following graduation.
"We strongly believe that in order for us to get support for what we're doing we have to start with ourselves, so we're putting our money on the table," Mr. Munroe said.
Organizers also will be seeking corporate sponsorships and grants to help nursing students complete the program, he said. "We all are committed to make sure that this thing works."
Mr. Munroe has asked that the program be named after Jessie Trice, former president and CEO of the clinics that provide health care to students at Florida Memorial. Ms. Trice, who died in 1999, was the first black graduate of UM's School of Nursing and a long-time advocate of health care for underrepresented minorities, especially women and children, he said.
Mr. Munroe stresses the program's focus on community nursing. Students will be encouraged to remain in the Miami-Dade area to serve the health care needs of local residents.
"It's beneficial for the overall community."