The Future of Nursing Is in Our Hands

Administration October 2023 PREMIUM

Miami Dade College (MDC) has a rich history of providing education and training in healthcare, especially nursing, and is committed to addressing the impending nursing shortage in Florida. The college is expanding its nursing programs and is collaborating with various partners and organizations to provide financial support and scholarships for aspiring healthcare professionals. MDC is committed to preparing skilled and diverse healthcare workforce to meet the growing demand in the state of Florida.

Since its founding, Miami Dade College (MDC) has proudly served as a beacon of hope where individuals from all walks of life come to achieve the American Dream. Today, Miami Dade College is one of the largest public institutions of higher education in the U.S., graduating nearly as many students as there are residents in Miami-Dade County. Throughout its six decades of transforming lives, our institution has made significant impacts in many industries, especially in the healthcare community. 

Our rich history includes graduating more than 21,000 nurses and many of the region’s essential healthcare workers and first responders, among our most vital resources for a prosperous future. Their expert care and support for others often carry us through some of life’s most challenging moments, as we all witnessed during the pandemic.  

And yet, we are at risk of losing them. Florida is among the top five states projected to have the largest nursing shortage, in part due to a growing aging population and burnout among existing nurses. The Florida Hospital Association projects that the state will face a shortage of about 59,000 nurses by 2035. 

At MDC, we’ve made it our mission to combat this deficit and have pledged to continue growing our nursing programs by 40% over the next few years, with support from the state, industry partners and organizations. 

Currently, there are over 6,200 students enrolled in nursing programs at MDC, and two-thirds of those students identify as Hispanic. 

Pathways to Nursing Credentials

We’re making significant progress through several initiatives. Our focus is expanding and creating new accelerated pathways to nursing credentials and making more courses available at all MDC campuses across Miami-Dade County, as well as online. 

MDC offers stackable nursing credentials that students can earn at their own pace. For example, students who complete the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program, launched in 2022 with a grant from the Lennar Foundation, can easily enroll in the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program and earn a career technical certificate in just three semesters. The curriculum also prepares them for the state board examination for practical nurse licensure. Both the CNA and LPN programs allow graduates to begin working right after.  

The LPN program can seamlessly transition to an Associate in Science in Nursing, eligible for the licensure exam to become a Registered Nurse. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) opens the doors to additional opportunities, such as management and teaching positions. Some students transfer to universities and pursue a career as nurse practitioners, another area of nursing in high demand.

Medical Campus: Expanded Training Opportunities

In addition to expanding the course catalog and hiring additional faculty, we extended the Benjamín León School of Nursing at our Medical Campus to the Homestead Campus, located in the county’s southernmost corridor and serving a large migrant community. The campus now houses a 4,850-square-foot state-of-the-art nursing simulation center where students gain practical skills before entering the workforce. 

The Medical Campus also continues to utilize its simulation hospital center to meet the clinical needs of the program. Located at the heart of the health district, the campus is committed to partnering with some of the nation’s finest healthcare institutions to provide students with real-world medical scenarios, ensuring better patient outcomes. Through scholarship programs with agencies such as Jackson Health System and Baptist Health, these opportunities allow students to engage in advanced hands-on training and expose them to real-life clinical situations, ensuring they graduate with the necessary skills for future employment.

Maintaining Affordability through Collaboration

MDC’s nursing programs offer high-quality education and access to the latest training, while providing students an opportunity to pursue a career in healthcare at an affordable cost. Our RN-to-BSN program has been ranked among the nation’s Top 10 most affordable for several consecutive years. Meanwhile, our graduates have an 86% pass rate on the NCLEX competency exam, which is above the state and national average. 

Increasing awareness of financial support is critical, and we  needed the support of our partners to achieve this level of success. This year, we collaborated with the United Way Miami to create the UpSkill Miami initiative, which will provide scholarships for Miami-Dade County residents to skill up and secure high-paying jobs in various industries, including healthcare. We also joined Nicklaus Children to launch the Nurse Scholars Program, a scholarship that places nursing students as patient care interns under the supervision of working nurses to gain valuable clinical experience. In the summer, we partnered with the Health Corporation of America to host 35 high school students interested in exploring nursing and healthcare careers.    

Training Tomorrow’s Essential Workforce

Nursing students also gain experience and fulfill clinical training requirements at local hospitals and medical facilities, including León Medical Centers, Miami Jewish Health Center and Vitas, among others. 

As Florida charts its course in being number one in workforce education, leaders in the state have made significant investments in workforce programs. For example, $79 million was allocated for high-performing nursing education programs in Florida, including funding for MDC. The College is aligned with that goal, and we are working hard to grow other in-demand programs as well. From launching the state’s first Bachelor of Science in Applied Artificial Intelligence to a new dual enrollment program that will graduate more teachers faster, we are making leaps to train tomorrow’s essential workforce today.    

It will take a collective effort to meet the demand and support the talented nurses we do have. That means adapting education to industry needs and creating new opportunities for students to earn while they learn. 

About the author

Madeline Pumariega is the first female president of Miami Dade College (MDC), one of the nation’s largest educational institutions. Prior to becoming MDC’s president, Pumariega was appointed the first female and Hispanic chancellor of the Florida College System (FCS). In 2019, Pumariega became the executive vice president and provost of Tallahassee Community College. In her current role, Pumariega has prioritized working with business partners to identify the skills needed by key industries and tailoring higher education programs to match those needs. 



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