By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — CBS4 has learned the demand for nurses at South Florida hospitals continues to increase significantly.

A spokeswoman for the Jackson Health System says there are 4,472 nurses at their seven hospitals and there is a shortage of 437 nurses. That number has doubled since last August when CBS4 reported the Jackson Health System was looking to fill 200 positions.

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CBS4’s Peter D’Oench spoke with several nursing school students at Miami-Dade College who told him they were determined to help out amid the statewide and nationwide shortage of nurses.

Stephanie Cano, 29, who is a licensed practical nurse and works for Broward Public Schools, hopes to graduate from Miami-Dade College in December as a registered nurse.

She said, “It has always been a dream of mine to care for people and I wanted to follow that dream. People are longing to be together again and this affects everyone’s emotions. If I can help make their day, that would make me feel better. As long as you are safe and wearing personal protective equipment everyone will be OK. A lot of nurses are not working anymore. I would tell everyone to come join us.”

Cynthia Delgado is also a student at Miami-Dade College.

She said, “I have always been interested in nursing to help take care of people.”

She and fellow student Yana Chao Perez hope to graduate as an RN in April.

Chao Perez said, “I don’t want to see people who are sick and suffering. I want to make them better.”

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Nursing school student Imayra Caballero said, “I think people need us as nurses to help out.”

Because of the shortage of nurses, the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies and Steward Health Care System announced a new partnership to place nursing students in clinical rotations and preceptorships for teaching at Steward’s five-recently acquired South Florida Hospitals, including North Shore Medical Center Coral Gables Hospital, Hialeah Hospital and Palmetto General Hospital and the Florida Medical Center in Broward.

Dr. Nichole Crenshaw, the associate dean for undergraduate nursing programs at the University of Miami School of Nursing, said, “We have 450 students and 304 are in clinical. The addition of Steward health means nurses have more opportunities to see patients in different stages of their lives. We have students doing rotations at Steward Health this semester graduating in May so there are opportunities for hospitals to recruit students after clinical rotations.”

Dr. Marisela Marrero, the president of Steward South Florida, said, “It’s not only recruiting new nurses for health care but it is also how do you keep that staff and satisfy the demands of hospitals. We have to start investing in the educational structure for new nurses so they are able to do the jobs that experienced nurses have done in the past.”

The Florida Hospital Association recently said there would be a shortage of 59,000 nurses statewide by 2035 unless conditions improve. Many nurses are quitting or retiring early or leaving the health care industry altogether or taking more lucrative jobs as travel nurses.

Last August, the Jackson Health System told CBS4 that nurses can earn $27 to $28 straight out of college and experienced nurses can earn as much as $40 an hour.

Some hospitals have added unique incentives.

The Palm Beach health network had been offering sign-on bonuses of up to $30,000.

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Baptist Health had increased pay rates, assisted students with refinancing student loans and offered up to $20,000 in sign-on bonuses.

Peter D'Oench