2024 Update: New Regulations for Opening a Nursing School in Florida

November 28, 2023
2024 Update: New Regulations for Opening a Nursing School in Florida
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Greetings to all aspiring educational entrepreneurs and healthcare visionaries! 

Given the increasing demand for qualified nurses, it is not surprising that so many medical doctors and working nurses have approached me in the last two years about starting a nursing school, especially in Florida.

Today, we're delving into the heartfelt journey of opening a nursing school in Florida—a beacon of hope in addressing our critical nursing shortage. We'll simplify the complex maze of regulations, share anecdotes, and guide you through each intricate step with ease.

Understanding the Need

Floridian healthcare is silently crying out for new nursing schools. Need is great, arguments are strong, and Florida's healthcare future is at stake.

The Staffing Adventure

We learn that 92% of Florida nursing homes have staffing concerns as we go. Imagine every nursing home having vacancies, a rotating door of faces in critical care units—where stability is most needed. This scenario peaked in 2021 when Florida had its highest critical care nurse turnover rate.

Imminent Nursing Shortage

Looking at the nursing workforce as a whole, the plot thickens. Florida is among the top five nursing shortage states. The Florida Hospital Association predicts a 59,000-nurse shortage by 2035. This number represents many unfilled shifts, stretched-thin personnel, and a healthcare system on the brink of collapse.

The Baby Boomers

But why is there scarcity? The answer lies with baby boomers, individuals born after WWII and now retiring. Post-COVID-19, Florida's population has grown, especially in sunny beaches and retirement communities. About 3.8 million baby boomers turn 65 each year, so they're not simply retiring. Florida will house a major portion of this generation by 2029, requiring a strong nursing workforce to meet their complex healthcare demands.

The Unknown Crisis of Aging Nurses

In addition to the aging population, the nursing workforce is at a critical point. A 2020 poll by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing found that US registered nurses averaged 51 years old. This figure shows experience but also foreshadows mass retirement. Many of these experienced nurses will retire within a decade, leaving a skills gap that must be filled by younger, similarly skilled nurses.

The time is NOW!

With an aging population and nursing workforce, Florida's healthcare system is near collapse. The solution? More nursing schools and a new generation of qualified, eager nurses ready to fight. It's a call to action for legislators, educators, and healthcare executives to collaborate to foster nursing education and ensure Floridians have access to well-prepared nurses.

Simplifying the Steps to Open a Nursing School in Florida

Embarking on the noble quest of "how to open a nursing school" or "opening a college" begins with securing two crucial licenses. Imagine you're crafting a two-layered cake: the first layer, as savory as the program approval, and the second, as sweet as the state approval. Florida requires a taste of the first before indulging in the second—often a complex dance best navigated with an "accreditation consultant" at your side.

Step 1 - Program Approval from Florida’s Board of Nursing

The process of gaining program approval from the Florida Board of Nursing is like building a house from scratch, with each brick representing a carefully written policy and every room reflecting the promise of fostering future nurses.

Getting Started: The Application Process

The Application for a New Nursing Program is the foundation of this venture. This is a thorough dossier that introduces the Governing Body or Sponsoring Institution to the Board, not merely a form to be filled out. This document, according to Rule 64B9-15.005(1), F.A.C., must embody the essence of your program—its mission, objectives, and educational goals that will set your graduates apart.

Financial and Resource Planning

Moving deeper into the approval maze, one must provide solid proof of financial stability and resources to substantiate the program's viability, as required by Rule 64B9-15.005(4), F.A.C. This is more than just displaying numbers in a bank account; it is about displaying a financial blueprint that displays the potential to sustain and expand.

Policies and Procedures

Following that, a solid foundation of policies and procedures must be presented. This complete package includes rules for student attendance, grading systems, record-keeping, financials ranging from tuition to aid, and detailed descriptions of student rights and obligations, including grievance methods. These are the beams and pillars that will support daily operations, assuring a seamless as well as demanding educational journey.

Faculty Requirements

The qualifications of the faculty are the foundation of this academic enterprise. According to Rule 64B9-15.005(2), F.A.C., the program coordinator must be a paragon of the field, with credentials and expertise that meet the highest requirements. Similarly, program teachers should be carefully selected in accordance with Rule 64B9-15.005(3), F.A.C., to ensure they provide not only knowledge but also the capacity to inspire and encourage. Furthermore, in accordance with Rule 64B9-15.005(4)(c), F.A.C., the teaching load or faculty-student ratio guarantees that each student receives the attention required for a transformative education—much like ensuring that every room in a house has enough light and air.

Clinical Facilities for training purposes

The program must also include Clinical Facilities that meet the requirements of F.A.C. Rule 64B0-15.005. These are not just venues; they are the beating heart of nursing education, where theory meets practice, students encounter the realities of care, and the pulse of nursing genuinely beats. Obtaining these affiliations is more than just a statutory requirement; it is a key component in ensuring that your graduates are experienced and prepared for the demands of healthcare.

Curriculum Development: The Foundation of Nursing Education

Finally, the curriculum is the heart of your nursing program. It must meet the stringent requirements of Rule 64B9-15.006, F.A.C., and provide a well-rounded, comprehensive, and compliant educational path. Each course, each module, must be meticulously crafted in order to teach the information, abilities, and compassion that identify a competent nurse. 

Acceptance as a New Beginning

While not exhaustive, each of these components is critical in establishing a strong, obedient, and capable foundation for your nursing school. The program approval shows your commitment to excellence and Florida's healthcare future, not just compliance. As you navigate this process, remember that each step brings you closer to helping aspiring nurses and strengthening the healthcare system with competent, compassionate care.

Step 2: Obtaining Provisional License from the Commission for Independent Education (CIE)

Getting a provisional license from Florida's Commission for Independent Education (CIE) is a lot like gathering all the threads you'll need to make a tapestry that shows your school is ready and able to teach the next generation of healthcare heroes.

Assembling the Legal and Operational Framework

Your journey begins with Secretary of State papers, the legal foundation that establishes your company's legitimacy in the state. Once the rules are clear, the Administrative Personnel Form can be used. This isn't just a formality; it's a statement of your team's structure, with clear descriptions of each job, like the many parts of a well-oiled machine. An Organizational Chart is included with this form. It is a picture of your organization's hierarchy that shows how the roles are linked, like a family tree that shows the history of roles and relationships.

The Academic and Enrollment Blueprint

The Program Outline is your academic blueprint, detailing the educational programs offered, painting a vibrant picture of the curriculum, the specializations, and the career paths that your students can embark upon. Paired with this is the Application for Admission and Enrollment Agreement, which sets the terms of engagement for prospective students, outlining how they can join your institution's ranks.

Financial Integrity and Planning

In the realm of finances, transparency is the watchword. The Refund Policy stands as a testament to your institution's ethical practices, clearly stating the scenarios in which students are entitled to get their money back. A Financial Statement then provides a snapshot of your institution's economic health, ensuring that you have the means to fulfill your educational promises.

Supporting these are the strategic and financial foresight documents, Form 605 - Business Plan and Form 606 - Budget. These are not merely forms but strategic maps that forecast the financial journey of your school, ensuring that the voyage towards educational excellence is well-funded and thoughtfully planned.

Faculty Credentials and Institutional Standards

As you continue, you will compile a Faculty Listing, a directory of the educators who will shape the minds and skills of your students. This list is a roll call of excellence, each name a beacon of knowledge and experience. Alongside this is the Faculty Handbook, which codifies the high standards and practices your faculty are expected to uphold, setting the tone for academic excellence.

The Institutional Catalog, along with any additional publications, serve as your institution's narrative, detailing academic offerings and institutional information, like a storybook that entices and informs potential students about the journey ahead.

Marketing and Facility Compliance

Your marketing materials and advertisements serve as heralds of your institution, calling out to potential students and painting a picture of the future that awaits them within your halls.

Crucial too is the evidence of secure and compliant facilities. Lease Agreements or proof of ownership, alongside Zoning Compliance documents, are the bricks and mortar of your operation, ensuring that your educational edifice is not only metaphorically but also physically on solid ground. 

Accreditation and Financial Responsibilities

Clarifying the Accreditation Status is pivotal, underscoring your institution's commitment to upholding educational standards. This is the seal of quality that reassures students and the community of your institution's excellence.

And finally, all associated fees documented through Fee Transmittal forms, including the Student Protection Fund Fee Transmittal Form, are the financial vows that you make to the state, affirming your commitment to operate within the educational ecosystem of Florida.

A Vision Coming Together

Each document, each form, is a piece of a larger puzzle that, when assembled, presents to the CIE a complete picture of an institution poised to deliver quality nursing education. This meticulous process, while daunting, is a rite of passage that ensures that when the doors of your nursing school open, they do so with the full backing, trust, and authorization of the state, ready to welcome the eager minds that will shape the future of healthcare.

Updates on Regulations for 2024

In a significant policy shift, the 2023 Legislature mandated a pivotal pre-requisite for licensed institutions aspiring to offer nursing programs: obtain accreditation first. This legislative move reshapes the journey of establishing a nursing school, embedding an additional layer of quality assurance right at the foundation stage.

While this change may seem like an extra summit to conquer, it’s designed as a safeguard—a quality control mechanism to ensure that the nursing programs that do take flight are of the highest standard. This accreditation-first approach is a testament to Florida’s commitment to educational excellence and patient care quality.

Exemptions and Strategic Adaptations

However, the Legislature has carved out a niche for lower-tier nursing programs such as those for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), which are exempt from this new accreditation prerequisite. This exemption is a strategic move, providing an accessible entry point into the world of nursing education for institutions.

For new nursing schools, this means an opportunity to begin their journey by offering programs in allied health fields that do not require immediate accreditation, such as Medical Assisting, LPN, In-Home Health Aid, and CNA programs. The approval process for these programs is expected to span approximately 9-12 months, offering a quicker route to operational status and the ability to begin making an impact on healthcare education sooner.

The Accreditation Voyage

Post-establishment of the allied health programs, the next phase is to navigate the waters of accreditation. This endeavor is not a sprint but a marathon, with institutions expected to allocate 18-24 months to achieve this milestone. Accreditation is more than a badge; it’s a comprehensive review that evaluates the depth, breadth, and quality of the educational offerings. It will be considerably simpler and quicker if you hire a "accreditation consultant" to guide you through the process.

Expanding Horizons

Once accreditation is secured, the path then clears for these institutions to broaden their horizons by adding higher-level nursing programs to their roster, such as Registered Nurse (RN) training or degree courses in nursing. This step-wise approach—starting with allied health programs and scaling up to more advanced nursing education—allows institutions to grow organically, building experience, reputation, and educational muscle with each step.

A Strategy for Success

This extended journey to opening a full-fledged nursing school may seem daunting, but it embeds within it the seeds of sustainable success. As with any great endeavor, starting small allows for the cultivation of expertise, the building of a brand name, and the establishment of trust within the community and industry.

Embracing the Change

The updates to the regulations in 2024 are not just procedural hurdles; they are strategic enhancements to the quality of nursing education in Florida. By adhering to these standards, new nursing schools will not only comply with legislative requirements but also stand as paragons of excellence—equipped to train the next generation of nurses who are as compassionate as they are competent. This thorough preparation ensures that when graduates of these programs don the nurse’s cap, they are not just ready for the job market but are also primed to elevate the standards of patient care in Florida.

Critical Considerations for Success

As you embark on the noble quest of opening a nursing school, it's essential to consider the twin beacons of success: securing clinical sites and ensuring robust financial health.

Securing Clinical Sites

The search for clinical sites is a critical step in the process of establishing a nursing school. Clinical settings are the practical venues in which theoretical knowledge is polished into skilled practice. These are the battlegrounds where students become professionals, learning how to manage the complexity of patient care in real time.

Securing these trial sites, on the other hand, is a challenge akin to negotiating treaties in unexplored territory. Healthcare facilities have limited capacity, and beds and training rooms for nurses are sometimes in short supply. The competition is fierce, and the bargaining process is complex. It is a delicate dance of mutual benefit and excellent training assurance.

Before diving into the official process, the strategic approach is to acquire verbal agreements with healthcare facilities. This preliminary handshake serves as a pledge, a forerunner to the formal, signed agreements that will cement your nursing school's partnership with the clinical locations. It's an important phase that should not be left to chance or last-minute efforts.

Proof of Financial Stability

When it comes to money, the numbers can be overwhelming. To get your nursing school up and running, you must be willing to pay between $150,000 and $200,000 in the first year alone. This initial capital establishes the foundation for your school, covering costs such as facility leasing or purchase, equipment acquisition, staffing, and the plethora of other fees associated with creating a top-tier educational facility.

Regulators are interested in more than just the intellectual strength of your program; they also want to see actual evidence of financial viability. Before giving approval, they must determine that you have the financial resources to support the school's activities. This examination guarantees that the institution has the endurance to see it through the early stages of its lifetime and beyond.

This means that the capital must be secure and visible in your records, whether it is provided by personal funds, loans, or investor contributions. It is more than just a number; it is a declaration of readiness and dedication, as well as a guarantee of the institution's stability and durability.

Closing Thoughts

Opening a nursing school in Florida is a complex yet profoundly impactful undertaking that goes beyond meeting a demand; it is about shaping the future of healthcare in a state that urgently needs more healthcare professionals. The key to success lies in securing quality clinical training sites and solid financial resources. While the investment is substantial, the rewards transcend monetary gains, contributing deeply to the community and the healthcare sector. The 2024 regulatory updates elevate the standards of nursing education in Florida, presenting challenges but also offering the chance to make a significant difference. The guidance for aspirants is to start with modest beginnings, aim for excellence, and prioritize the mission of delivering quality care. The ultimate goal is to not only establish educational institutions but to forge a future where competent, caring nurses are ready to serve Florida's diverse healthcare needs.

So, let's move forward with purpose and passion, building not just schools, but futures—ensuring that when the call for care is sounded, it is answered by well-trained, compassionate nurses ready to serve the Sunshine State

For personalized guidance, feel free to reach out to Expert Education Consultants via email at info@experteduconsult.com with any questions you may have. This service is complimentary.

To explore customized solutions tailored to your specific needs, schedule a personalized one-on-one paid consultation with Dr. Sandra Norderhaug here.  I’ve been helping clients establish nursing schools in the US for over a decade, and I look forward to helping you, too

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