PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — In hopes of addressing the nursing shortage, the state of Florida is pumping money into nursing programs in an effort to get more qualified people into the field.

What You Need To Know

  •  St. Leo University's new nursing program is receiving $740,000 from the state 

  •  Funds will go toward expansion and a permanent facility for the program

  •  School officials said they hope to turn out 200 new nurses in five years 

A study from the Florida Hospital Association said that in 12 years, the state is expected to be short 59,000 nurses.

Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced nearly $80 million would be going toward nursing education, which encompasses dozens of programs statewide — including a new program at St. Leo University.

St. Leo’s first class of nursing students just entered its junior year and the hands-on training portion of the program.

Grace Lundfelt, a junior in the program, said she found her love for nursing after taking a biology class at Land O’ Lakes High School and volunteering in the emergency department at BayCare. She said knowing that nurses are in such high demand gives her peace of mind.

“It’s reassuring to know that, once we graduate, we’re going to have somewhere to go,” she said. “Somewhere’s going to need us, and someone's going to want us.”

The nursing program at St. Leo University is receiving $740,000 from the state budget. School officials said those funds will go toward growing the program and creating a permanent space for students to conduct classroom simulations.

After watching so many nurses leave the profession during and following the COVID-19 pandemic from burnout, Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden, dean of the College of Health Professions, said the program focuses on more than just patient care.

“We saw how important it was for nurses to be resilient, for nurses to manage stress.," she said "During COVID, we saw nurses leaving the profession. It’s important to us to help students build the skills they need to be happy in their choice, so they have a long career in nursing as well.”

In five years, school officials said they plan to add roughly 200 nurses to the workforce.