Cover Feature

Florida Center for Nursing Provides Much-Needed Data

Five students sitting at a table conversing

Rayna Letourneau, (second from left), interim executive director of the Florida Center for Nursing and assistant professor in the College of Nursing, meets with nursing students.. [Photo: Christine Lear, College of Nursing]


WITH FLORIDA IN THE MIDST of a significant shortage of nurses, the Florida Center for Nursing — now part of USF Health’s College of Nursing — has never been more important.

Established in 2001 by Florida lawmakers, the center was housed — as a separate entity — at the University of Central Florida until it closed in 2020 due to a lack of funding.

“The toll that the pandemic was taking on the nursing workforce was astronomical,” says Rayna Letourneau, an assistant professor in USF’s College of Nursing and interim executive director of the center.  “People started looking for data that wasn’t being collected anymore because the center had closed. It’s difficult to make decisions without data and the absence of the center was felt massively across the state.”

In 2021, the Florida Nurses Association secured state funding to re-establish the center for one year in partnership with USF. Because of its success and the continued need for attention to the nursing workforce, this year’s state budget included $5 million in recurring funding to support the center as part of the College of Nursing.

“We analyze different state and regional data that will help us determine supply and demand,” Letourneau says. “For example, last academic year we surveyed all of the practical and registered nursing programs in the state. We collected data about each program, such as faculty and student demographic characteristics, in addition to the capacity of each nursing program, to provide information about supply and the pipeline into the nursing workforce.”

The center also evaluates data for pass rates on registered and practical nurse licensure exams, license renewals by nurses and employer data.

Letourneau notes that first-time success rates on the National Council Licensure Examination provides information related to the pipeline of new graduates into the nursing workforce.

“If new graduate nurses do not pass the exam, then they cannot practice as a licensed registered nurse and will not help to build the competence and capacity of our nursing workforce,” she says.

Florida’s pass rates on the exam have been below the national average for a few years. In 2021, the national pass rate was just under 83%, while the state’s was slightly below 65%. (USF’s pass rate was 91% in 2021.)

“The alarming state pass rate warrants the Center for Nursing to take a deeper dive into the state’s data,” Letourneau says.

She is focused on two major goals.

“The first is to develop a strategic statewide plan for the nursing workforce in Florida,” she says. “In order to do this, the center must collect and analyze data, then disseminate the findings. The other goal is to enhance promotion of the nursing profession, including recognition, reward and renewal activities for nurses across the state. We want the public to have a better understanding of what nurses do, so being able to promote nursing and recognize all of the excellence within our profession are important.”