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Johns Hopkins partnership propels USFSP Nursing

Mark Parker



A recent cohort from the USF College of Nursing. Local partnerships and matching state funding are addressing the area's nursing shortage. Photo provided.

University of South Florida St. Petersburg nursing students could soon move from the adjacent port’s ramshackle rooms into nearby state-of-the-art facilities inside Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

If approved by state officials, the new partnership would also provide $857,944 in scholarship and faculty salary funding and guarantee placement in specialty training programs. Dr. Usha Menon, dean of the College of Nursing that spans three campuses, explained the initiative’s importance to school board members at their Aug. 15 meeting.

The collaboration between two St. Petersburg institutions is part of Florida’s Linking Industry to Nursing Education (LINE) initiative. Lawmakers created the program to address the ongoing nursing shortage.

State officials match contributions from healthcare partners, underscoring the need to form local collaborations. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s (JHACH) leadership embraced the opportunity.

“In St. Petersburg, we have steadily been growing our nursing program in response to community need,” Menon said. “But we don’t have the space.”

She explained how USFSP nursing students occupy a small space at Port St. Petersburg, adjacent to the College of Marine Science. Menon said they have two years to find a new home.

City and Innovation District officials are exploring funding to build a second Maritime and Defense Technology Hub on the site. That would require the old building’s demolition.

A previously mentioned solution was establishing space at one district anchor institution, JHACH, for another, USFSP. Menon said St. Pete nursing students would soon receive a learning experience on par with their Tampa campus counterparts.

“They (JHACH) have a very contemporary, state-of-the-art simulation facility,” she added. “This will help them hire more people to train our students and use that space for our students. It reduces the need for St. Pete students to come over to Tampa for high-fidelity simulations.”

An overhead of the Innovation District showing the proximity of USFSP, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Port St. Petersburg and the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub. Screengrab.

The combined funding will provide scholarships for 10 undergraduates in their final year of the baccalaureate program. Nursing officials will identify potential Johns Hopkins Scholars according to Pinellas County residency, academic performance and their commitment to work in the area.

Trustee Oscar Horton noted that many nurses realized in the pandemic that they could exponentially increase their salaries through traveling gigs. While the College of Nursing offers scholarships with a two-year work requirement, the new program lacks that mandate.

However, Menon noted that students become comfortable with facilities during preceptorships – supervised educational clinical rotations – and often prefer to stay after graduation. “They kind of feel like they are part of the hospital already.”

Nearly every nursing student in the 2022-23 cohort participated in a program survey, with 16% stating they would work in the area and 93% saying they would remain in the state. “The travel nursing, the contract nursing, has certainly settled down,” Menon added.

“It’s probably not where we want it to be because it does affect patient care,” she said. “But because of the shortage, I think it’s going to keep continuing until we can even out those numbers in each state.”

Menon stressed the importance of the program guaranteeing clinical placements. She explained that private schools “creatively pay” for preceptorship spots public universities must compete for what is left.

The JHACH partnership will provide access to pediatric clinical instruction, a specialty area with limited educationally and experientially qualified nursing faculty. Menon said that modality is “highly demanded,” and students eagerly anticipate the opportunity to work with children.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s officials transferred dozens of pediatric patients to the facility during Hurricane Ian in 2022. Photo provided.

Tampa General Hospital

The College of Nursing will receive another $382,500 in LINE funding thanks to Tampa General Hospital’s (TGH) $191,250 contribution. That will fund two USF Dedicated Education Units (DEUs) within the facility to expand clinical placement opportunities.

Menon explained that the DEUs also guarantee nursing students preceptorships. She stressed the value of continuity and familiarity in the field, which increases retention rates.

She noted that the program also benefits hospitals. “We’ve seen saving upwards of $700,000 in onboarding costs,” Menon said.

The TGH collaboration will also increase simulation space and fund a Master Preceptor Fellowship certificate to ensure qualified educators. Funding will provide scholarships for 10 senior Tampa students and support four adjunct faculty members’ salaries.

HCA West Florida 

Menon added that $1.8 million of the $6.1 million LINE funding remains in state coffers due to a lack of applications. She will soon submit a proposal in collaboration with HCA West Florida Hospital for $100,000.

If approved, the funding would help 15 nursing students with a financial need pay for their final two semesters. College of Nursing officials would award five scholarships on the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses.

“They will also be in the nurse externship program, which is the ideal employment opportunity for them at HCA,” Menon said. “They are making some money … and it gives them sort of a leg up with HCA.”




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