Nurse of the Week: Bethany Baker Becomes First Deaf Nursing Student to Be Admitted to UNF Nursing

Nurse of the Week: Bethany Baker Becomes First Deaf Nursing Student to Be Admitted to UNF Nursing

Our Nurse of the Week is Bethany Baker, the first deaf nursing student to be admitted to the University of North Florida’s (UNF) School of Nursing. Baker comes from a family of nurses, and although every person on her mom’s side of the family is deaf in one ear, she was the first in her family to be born fully deaf. Her deafness kept her from imagining a career in nursing for herself, but at 27 years old, she is working toward a post-baccalaureate degree in nursing and she hopes to pave the way for others to follow in her footsteps.

Baker’s parents discovered she couldn’t hear when she was 6 months old. She graduated from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in 2009 and attended Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, to pursue a degree in history. After graduating, she moved to Tennessee where she started caring for a 96-year-old deaf woman, called Mama Ray, which inspired her to pursue a career in the medical field.

While working for Mama Ray, Baker took a certified nursing assistant class and worked in an emergency room for six months. After Mama Ray died in 2016 at almost 100 years old, Baker moved back to Florida to enroll in a nursing program. Baker has one year left in the program and then she hopes to become a labor and delivery nurses or operating room nurse. She also wants to work with more deaf patients in Florida and advocate for deaf people who want to pursue any profession.

Baker is currently completing her clinical rounds at Flagler Hospital where she has two interpreters with her at all times, provided by the UNF Disability Resource Center. Her time as a nursing assistant in Tennessee and as a student doing clinical rounds has led her to become an advocate for deaf patients. One man in particular affected her deeply. At the hospital in Tennessee, Baker met with a patient who was going to have open heart surgery but had no interpreter. He had no information on the surgery he was going to have or the pre- and post-operation processes. She doesn’t want to see other patients with disabilities going through the healthcare system completely in the dark.

Baker’s nursing experience has also taught her how to communicate with patients in different ways. She carries a pager for nurses to contact her and uses a tablet to access a remote sign language interpreter to talk to patients when an interpreter isn’t available in-person. She also convinced the hospital she worked at in Tennessee to hire her interpreter who now remains on staff working with deaf, blind, deaf and blind, and other handicapped patients.

Baker tells, “For deaf people, I’m hoping to start this process and experiences and do great, and then I can really open some doors permanently for some other deaf people to get their foot in the medical door. I’m really happy that the program took a risk on me. I feel more empowered to do a good job. I know that I can do it, and I want to show them that I can do it as well.”

To learn more about Bethany Baker, the first deaf nursing student to be admitted to the University of North Florida’s (UNF) School of Nursing, visit here.

Florida Universities Find Creative Solutions to Meet Demand for Nurses

Florida Universities Find Creative Solutions to Meet Demand for Nurses

A potential nursing shortage is threatening Florida’s healthcare system and the state’s universities and colleges are devising creative solutions to graduate more nurses. The Florida Center for Nursing predicts a need for 114,000 more nurses by 2023 as the healthcare demand from baby boomers increases in tandem with retiring nurses. However, there are more potential students competing for nursing spots in schools than there are positions available. Florida universities report that they’re forced to turn away up to two-thirds of nursing applicants at the bachelor’s degree level. 

One solution posed by Florida nursing schools is to change how registered nurses get real-world practice with patient care. Most programs require students to complete clinical hours to get hands-on experience outside the classroom but a shortage of nursing faculty has limited the ability to take on more students in real-world clinical settings. An increasing number of Florida nursing schools are offering simulation scenarios to give students comparable clinical experience. 

Dr. Ora Strickland, dean of the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Florida International University, tells, “We would be unable to accept as many as we do if not for the simulation center.”

Simulation training mirrors the hospital settings, allowing students to make decisions and then observe those decisions through on-the-spot feedback from nurse educators. Florida’s State Board of Nursing now allows students to complete up to half of their clinical hours in simulation labs based on clinical research on the effectiveness of simulation training. Simulation centers can also be used to educate nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and other nursing graduate students. 

To learn more about how Florida universities are working to find creative solutions to meet the demand for nurses, visit here

University of Florida’s Nursing Diversity Program Serves as a National Model

University of Florida’s Nursing Diversity Program Serves as a National Model

The University of Florida (UF) College of Nursing has created an innovative research and leadership program for underrepresented undergraduate students. The EMBRACE program—Engaging Multiple-communities of BSN students in Research and Academic Curricular Experiences—was created in 2016 and has continued to evolve to meet the needs of students and changes in education and healthcare. 

The central pillar of the program is mentorship and each participating student is paired with a nursing faculty member who best matches the student’s research interest. Students are expected to complete a research, leadership, educational, or quality improvement project with their faculty mentor and participate in monthly meetings. The framework of the program now serves as a model for other colleges seeking to create opportunities to advance diversity and inclusion of underrepresented students. 

Jeanne-Marie Stacciarini, PhD, RN, FAAN, a College of Nursing associate professor and director of diversity and inclusion, tells, “Junior and senior students who are part of the EMBRACE program are receiving hands-on experiences in research, evidence-based practice and leadership opportunities. During the monthly meetings, they also learn from their peers and from guest speakers, such as alumni who are leaders in research, policy or entrepreneurship, and also current students. The EMBRACE students have the opportunity to present in research conferences, be part of internal and external professional committees and compete for academic awards that acknowledge their work.”

The EMBRACE program takes an innovative approach to motivate students with a diverse background to think about their next steps and have the ability to see themselves advance as nurse leaders. Stacciarini hopes the program will encourage other nursing schools to develop similar diversity programs and believes that recognizing the dynamic shift in the country’s population will be at the forefront of creating a learning environment that welcomes students from diverse backgrounds.

To learn more about how the University of Florida College of Nursing’s diversity program has become a national model, visit here.

New Florida Bill Aimed to Help State Nursing Shortage

New Florida Bill Aimed to Help State Nursing Shortage

Technical schools have been lobbying Florida state legislators so more students can become registered nurses. As a result, Florida House Bill 381 is under review with the Florida House of Representative’s Higher Education and Career Readiness Subcommittee. Language from the bill states that it would “…[authorize] school district career centers to conduct certain associate degree nursing programs.”

Manatee Technical College is leading the charge on this movement with support from Florida Association for Career and Technical Education. Currently, MTC offers a licensed practical nursing program, but technical schools cannot offer RN programs. If passed, the new legislation will allow Florida technical schools and centers to provide transition programs, where students who complete the licensed program can continue their education. This path could create more opportunities for students to take the state exam and become registered nurses.

“We’re not trying to compete with the state college,” MTC spokeswoman Maura Howl shared with “We’re trying to offer our graduates an opportunity they currently don’t have. It’s all about career pathways — to give students stepping stones to progress.”

Florida anticipates that there will be nearly 114,000 openings for registered nurses from 2017 through 2023. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity lists nearly 3900 of those openings within Manatee and Sarasota counties alone.

Keeping Up Nurse Recruitment Efforts

With Florida feeling the nursing shortage, healthcare employers, like Tidewell Hospice, are grateful for more opportunities for nursing students to become registered nurses. Presently, Tidewell has 17 open positions for registered nurses and seven open positions for licensed practical nurses. Cindy Coffman, Vice President of Human Resources at Tidewell, said some roles were posted over four months and have not received any applications.

“None of us can fill the job openings,” Coffman told “The applicant volume isn’t there. We’re really feeling it at this point.”

Tidewell has taken several steps to fill its nursing roles, including social media campaigns, hiring a nurse recruiter, and increasing bonuses. Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, another Manatee-Sarasota healthcare provider, has also been using new strategies to keep their nursing positions filled. LRMC Chief Nursing Officer Judy Young explained how the organization offers clinical rotations to local nursing schools, as well as a 12-week residency program.

“We’ve taken these creative steps to really embrace existing and potential new RNs coming into our program,” Lakewood Ranch Medical Center’s Director of Marketing Lisa Kirkland told “We’re trying to stay one step ahead of the nursing shortage issue.”

As of January 30, the bill is under review with several education subcommittees. If approved, it will go into effect on July 1.

Florida International University Receives $1.5 Million Grant to Train Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners

Florida International University Receives $1.5 Million Grant to Train Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners

Florida International University (FIU) has received a $1.5 million grant for a university-based program to train sexual assault nurse examiners to work in rural and underserved areas of Florida. A partnership with FIU’s Global Forensic and Justice Center will increase access to forensic nurse specialists at clinics in Sweetwater, Belle Glade, Hendry, and Glades counties.

According to a press release from FIU Nursing, nearly 80 percent of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported, in part because of a severe shortage of license health care specialists called sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs), who help properly secure evidence from survivors of sexual assault, which can lead to higher prosecution rates.

FIU’s Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, in partnership with the Global Forensic and Justice Center, will collaborate with rural health clinics and hospitals as part of a university-based program to double the number of SANE-certified nurses in Florida to aid sexual assault survivors in rural and underserved communities.

The US Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the $1.5 million grant to Tami Thomas, associate dean of research for the FIU Nursing, to launch the Advanced Nursing Education-Regionally Underserved Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (RUSANE) program. SANE-certified nurses conduct forensic medical examinations and provide survivors with physical and mental health care to help deal with their trauma.

FIU’s RUSANE program will recruit, train, and deploy 30 eligible licensed registered nurses and certified advanced practice registered nurses over the next three years. To learn more about the $1.5 million grant awarded to FIU Nursing to train sexual assault nurse examiners to work in rural and underserved areas of Florida, visit here.

Nurse of the Week: Registered Nurse Leslie Silcox Leads Organized Recovery Efforts to Help Victims of Hurricane Michael

Nurse of the Week: Registered Nurse Leslie Silcox Leads Organized Recovery Efforts to Help Victims of Hurricane Michael

Our Nurse of the Week is Leslie Silcox, a registered nurse from Knoxville, Tennessee, who has been organizing hurricane relief efforts for years in her own spare time. Most recently, she helped pack supplies to send to Florida following the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

Silcox’s hurricane relief efforts began in 2012 when she randomly opened her Facebook page and saw images of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in New York. She wished there was something she could do to help, and realized that maybe there was. Silcox posted on her own Facebook page asking for volunteers, and within 3 days had filled a 20-foot Budget truck with relief supplies and headed to Staten Island.

Silcox was at it again last week packing supplies to send to Florida to help the individuals impacted by Hurricane Michael. She organized a group of other nurses who went down to help evacuate nursing homes as the storm hit. Her role was doing the legwork of organizing where to send her volunteers, in addition to still helping victims of Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.

Silcox tells, “If we as human beings would reach out to our brothers and sisters and our neighbors, this world would be so much more amazing.”

To learn more about registered nurse Leslie Silcox and her efforts to help victims of Hurricane Michael, visit here.

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