Training the Future

South Florida State College’s New Center for Nursing Excellence Takes aim at Nurse Shortage


The combination of a new learning environment, updated labs and equipment, and a partnership with area hospitals is what’s anticipated to be the perfect prescription for producing highly skilled nurses.

Avon Park’s South Florida State College recently welcomed guests, dignitaries, and visitors to highlight the latest nursing medical technology in a new state-of-the-art facility on the SFSC campus.

Called the AdventHealth Sebring Center for Nursing Excellence at South Florida State College, the new center was primarily installed on campus to help attract more students into nursing and help curb a national nursing shortage. According to a March 2022 survey by staffing firm Incredible Health, more than one-third of nurses surveyed say it’s likely they will leave their jobs by the end of 2022, and 44 percent cited job burnout and high-stress workplaces as reasons for wanting to quit. 

It’s survey results such as those that partly led to SFSC and AdventHealth Sebring to share resources in an effort to get more students motivated to become nurses and help fill increasing nursing vacancies.

AdventHealth Sebring already had a long history with SFSC to develop and train future nurses, including having funded a position for nursing faculty starting in August 2018. 

As nursing numbers decline across the United States, the center plans to provide $10,000 in scholarship funds to pay for nursing student tuition, fees, and books for those enrolled in the program. Those students will perform their clinical studies at the AdventHealth Sebring, Wauchula, and Lake Placid hospitals. Upon graduation, those students also will be offered a nursing position at one of the AdventHealth hospitals where they trained.

The primary purpose of the new center is to train students to become future Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses through a two-year nursing program. 

SFSC President Thomas Leitzel opened the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, citing the occasion as a day “to celebrate the field of nursing.” Joining him was Randy Surber, president and CEO of AdventHealth Sebring, Lake Placid and Wauchula; AdventHealth Sebring Chief Nursing Officer Elsie Graves; and Tami Cullens, chair of the SFSC District Board of Trustees. 

Joining the presenters were nursing students, college faculty, medical professionals, and members of the business community. 

Surber said the new nursing facility was for the “betterment”’ of the communities it serves.

Graves calls the new center “a dream come true” before introducing AdventHealth nurses, staff, and SFSC leaders in attendance.

“This facility will allow us to educate and develop high caliber nurses to fill the nursing void many healthcare facilities are currently facing,’’ she says. 

The Center for Nursing Excellence consists of a large classroom and a simulation laboratory, named the Clinical Immersion Center, where students will attend classes and do clinical work. That will be in addition to clinical work through partnerships at AdventHealth Sebring, AdventHealth Wauchula, and AdventHealth Lake Placid hospitals.

The CIC lab was recently upgraded through a grant of legislative funding applied for and received by the college. It gives the nursing students new, state-of-art equipment to use in addition to access to the same kind of simulation equipment being used prior to the center’s unveiling.

Following the ribbon cutting from the hall leading from the lobby, guests were able to visit the new Center for Nursing Excellence and meet students and instructors. 

In the CIC lab, about 30 nursing students and staff greeted guests who got to see the latest learning tools, which included lifelike dummies in various rooms: a mother in labor, a toddler, a child, adults, and the elderly. With them, nursing students will be able to get experience using basic vitals monitors showing airflow, blood pressure, pulse rates, and other vital stats.

“It’s a way to give them hands-on experience without using an actual live patient. They’ll learn to deal with different conditions and illnesses,” Graves says.

And that will be one of the most important components of the center, says Erika Coggins of Lake Placid.

Coggins, 32, has been an SFSC student on and off for about 10 years and plans to graduate as a Licensed Practical Nurse in August. The laboratory open house was her first time seeing the new Center for Nursing Excellence, and she called what she saw “awesome” in terms of preparing her for an LPN career and eventually a career as a Registered Nurse.

“It’s really great to have this because it’s going to help us transition from the lab to an actual clinical experience. I feel like this is going to help me prepare for my future RN career in nursing,” says Coggins, who hopes someday to work in surgery or in the emergency room.

That’s one of the primary goals for the Center for Nursing Excellence: to develop leaders in medicine to help broaden support during this widespread nurse shortage.

“The demand in healthcare services continues to grow, but we can’t grow without you – the college. You are the ticket to the future,” Surber says.

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