GUIDE
October 10, 2017
Bridge going over waterway to Miami in Florida

Considering a nursing career in Florida? Here's everything you need to know about being a nurse in the Sunshine State.

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Part One Why Work In Florida?

Florida is one of the top employers for nurses nationwide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida ranks #4 for highest employment of nurses by state. Florida is also one of the most popular states for retirement, which contributes to the significant demand for nurses. 

Although Florida nurses earn a moderate salary compared to other states, cost of living is among the lowest in the U.S. Additionally, Florida is one of only seven states that don’t collect an individual income tax, allowing nurses the chance to keep expenses low and save money. 

Aside from the huge demand for nurses, many are drawn to Florida for the lifestyle. The state boasts 5 of the top 15 beaches in America as reported by U.S. News. The weather is beautiful year-round, amusement parks such as Disney World are in your backyard, and cruise ships depart from all coastlines. The cities are rich with eclectic cultures, attracting tourists annually from around the world, in addition to the abundant inhabitants who proudly represent their Caribbean and Latin American roots in communities. 

If Florida seems like it might be the right fit for you, read on to learn more. 

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Part Two Demand and Outlook

As noted above, Florida is the 4th largest employer of nurses in the U.S. and demand will only continue to increase.

Various factors will contribute to the dire need for Registered Nurses – population growth, increased nurse turnover, increasing numbers of insured residents, and baby boomer nurses retiring - 40% in the next 10 years as forecasted by the Florida Center for Nursing.

Florida, one of the most popular states for retirement, will deal with a growing and aging population who will require acute and long-term care through home health agencies and skilled nursing facilities. 

Another report used data starting from 2010 (5,900 Florida RN vacancies), along with current trends in healthcare, to project more than 50,300 Florida RN vacancies by 2025. 

Part Three Salary & Benefits

The Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent data reports a mean annual salary of $66,210 for Registered Nurses in Florida. Average hourly wage is reported to be $31.83 per hour.

Metropolitan areas tend to pay more than non-metropolitan areas. Here are the five highest paying cities for nurses in Florida:

Highest Paying Cities For Nurses

Naples-Immokalee-Macro Island $36.56 $76,040
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach $33.61 $69,920
Cape Coral-Fort Myers $33.57 $69,830
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater $33.39 $69,440
Gainesville $33.28 $69,230

Pay varies by source of employment (outpatient vs inpatient setting), specialty area, ASN vs BSN degree, and geographical location. Typically, nurses work 3 12-hour shifts in a hospital setting or 4 10-hour shifts for outpatient centers. Florida nurses who work 12 hours shifts (unless in the ED) typically work straight nights or straight days, rotating shifts are not common. 

Overtime is typically available to nurses by hourly rate past 40 hours/week. Due to the nursing shortage, it is common for hospitals to offer sign-on bonuses for specialty nurses for relocation to Florida (up to $10,000). End-of-year bonuses and raises for nurses are often based on individual or facility performance as a percentage of annual salary.  

Benefits are available for Full-Time Registered Nurses, not typically Part-Time or Per Diem employment. For FT RN’s, benefits packages include the options of enrolling in health insurance, life insurance, short-term and long-term disability, dental, vision, cancer, and 401k retirement savings. Benefits also often include discounts or assistance with child-care whether through the healthcare facility or associated third party. Florida does not have specific parental leave laws, so most RN’s use short-term disability insurance to cover maternity leave.  

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Part Four Florida State Board Of Nursing

The Florida Board of Nursing licenses, monitors, disciplines, educates and, when appropriate, rehabilitates its licensees to assure competence in providing health care services for the people of Florida. They also ensure that every nurse practicing in Florida meets minimum requirements for safe practice.

Contact Information

Customer Contact Center
Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET
(850) 488-0595

Board Office
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET
(850) 245-4125
FAX: 850-617-6460

Mailing Address:
Department of Health
Board of Nursing
4052 Bald Cypress Way Bin C-02
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3252

Applications and Fees ONLY:
Department of Health
Board of Nursing
P.O. Box 6330
Tallahassee, FL 32314-6330

Part Five Florida Nursing Licenses

All nursing licensure and registration is processed through the Florida Board of Nursing.

RN and LPN by Examination

All applications are processed through the Florida Board of Nursing online portal. In order to qualify for licensure by examination, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Graduation from accredited nursing education program
  • Successful examination of the NCLEX (you can submit before your test date, pending a PASS)
  • Electronic fingerprinting by a Livescan service provider within Florida or an approved Livescan service provider outside of the state who can process a hard card for electronic submittal 
  • Pass a criminal background screening 
  • After an application is submitted and upon passing the licensure examination, the initial Florida nursing license is issued within 7-10 days.

Total Fees:

  • $200 for cost of examination to Pearson VUE, Testing Vendor
  • $110 for application and licensing fee to Florida Board of Nursing
  • Cost varies by Livescan Service Provider

RN and LPN by Endorsement

All applications are processed through the Florida Board of Nursing online portal. In order to qualify for licensure by endorsement, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must hold a valid license to practice professional nursing in another state or territory in the U.S.
    OR - the applicant has successfully completed the NCLEX or State Board Test Pool Exam
    OR - the applicant has actively practiced nursing in another U.S. state or territory for 2 of the 3 preceding years without restriction of license 
  • Verification of initial and active license(s) sent to the Florida Board of Nursing 
  • Electronic fingerprinting by a Livescan service provider within Florida or an approved Livescan service provider outside of the state who can process a hard card for electronic submittal 
  • Pass a criminal background screening

Total Fees:

  • $110 for application and licensing fee to the Florida Board of Nursing
  • Cost varies by Livescan Service Provider
  • Cost varies for License Verification

Although not explicitly stated on the FBN website, multiple sources for nurses estimate processing time for licensure by endorsement at 2-4 weeks once a complete application is received. 

License Renewal

Renewals for nursing licenses in Florida occur on a biennial basis in April. Renewals are completed online through the Florida Health Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) portal. CE requirements are verified through CEBroker.com and the application requires a fee of $80. Fees vary if the status of your Florida license has lapsed to inactive or retired. 

Florida does not issue temporary nursing licenses and it does not acknowledge those with a Compact License. 

Part Six Best Hospitals For Nurses

Nurse.org ranked the best hospitals in Florida state for nurses to work for based on nurse’s ratings and reviews.

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1. Morton Plant Hospital

Clearwater, FL

Average Rating 4.5
97% Recommended

“Great nursing support, multiple education opportunities, competitive pay, great coworkers, and management is very involved and supportive.”

“The hospital recognizes nurses for all their hard work. The organization has many educational opportunities for continuing education.”

Read Reviews

2. St. Joseph’s Hospital

Tampa, FL

Average Rating 4.5
96% Recommended

“A great place to work and learn. I have had a wonderful experience here. It is wonderful and very diverse!”

“Core values are taken very seriously. Patients are the priority.”

“Baycare is one of the best companies to work for in the Tampa Bay area. They take care of their employees.”

Read Reviews


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3. Morton Plant North Bay Hospital

New Port Richey, FL

Average Rating 4.4
95% Recommended

“New facility with newer supplies. Leaders are excellent when issues arise, as are coworkers; they help without question.”

“This is an awesome company to work for. They have great management and teamwork.”

Read Reviews

4. Mease Countryside Hospital

Safety Harbor, FL

Average Rating 4.4
94% Recommended

“Fast-paced environment with plenty of opportunities to learn.”

“I would tell a prospective nurse that the hospital is wonderful. I really enjoy working at this hospital because everyone works as a team.”

Read Reviews

5. Tampa General Hospital

Tampa, FL

Average Rating 4.3
98% Recommended

*Magnet Hospital

“Great place to work. Great experience. New opportunities every day.”

“Great facility that backs its staff. Tons of resources like a lift team and rapid response.”

Read Reviews

See the full list of Best Hospitals for Nurses in Florida.

Part Seven Magnet Hospitals in Florida 

The American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC) awards hospitals who demonstrate a high degree of quality nursing, according to set standards, with the Magnet status.

Nurses who work at Magnet hospitals report higher job satisfaction, fewer injuries and more opportunities for advancement. These hospitals represent some of the most renowned facilities in the country, which also means that they have a highly competitive hiring process that only selects the best of the best. 

Hospital City
Holy Cross Hospital Ft. Lauderdale
Arnold Palmer Medical Center Orlando
Baptist Health System Jacksonville
Baptist Medical Center Beaches Jacksonville Beach
Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville Jacksonville
Baptist Medical Center Nassau Fernandina Beach
Baptist Medical Center South  Jacksonville
Wolfson Children’s Hospital Jacksonville
Baptist Hospital of Miami Miami
Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital Jacksonville
Flagler Hospital, Inc. St. Augustine
Florida Hospital for Children Orlando
Homestead Hospital Homestead
Mayo Clinic Jacksonville
Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Tampa
Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Miami
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System Sarasota
South Miami Hospital South Miami
Tampa General Hospital Tampa
UF Health Jacksonville Jacksonville
UF Health Shands Hospital Gainesville
West Kendall Baptist Hospital Miami
Winter Haven Hospital Winter Haven

Part Eight Continuing Education Requirements

CE requirements are listed on the Florida Board of Nursing website. All hours must be board approved. 

Biennium Requirements:

  • General Hours = 18 hours (must be accredited by state or national organization)
  • Prevention of Medical Errors = 2 hours
  • Florida Laws & Rules = 2 hours
  • Recognizing Impairment in the Workplace = 2 hours (required every other biennium)
  • Human Trafficking = 2 hours (required every other biennium)
  • Domestic Violence = 2 hours (required every third biennium)
  • HIV/AIDS = 1 hour (one-time requirement prior to first renewal) 

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Part Nine Best Nursing Schools in Florida

In order to be licensed as a nurse in Florida, an applicant must complete a nursing education program that is either “approved” or “accredited.” (Education Requirements)

An “approved” education program is not required to be accredited, but is approved and regulated under s.464.019 of Florida Statutes.

An “accredited” education program is recognized by a specialized accrediting nursing body that is nationally recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as defined by Florida Statute s.464.003. Programs can be verified by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 

Types of Nursing Degrees:

Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) – quickest length of program (usually about a year) and geared toward technical nursing care support in healthcare

Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) – generally two years of fulltime study, available at most public state colleges in Florida 

Dual Enrollment Concurrent ASN-BSN – some colleges and universities offer a limited-access program for ASN students to concurrently complete ASN and BSN courses which allows graduates to complete an ASN degree and BSN degree two semesters after (6-7 semesters total)

Post-Licensure RN-BSN bridge programs – intended for ASN-prepared Registered Nurses who wish to earn a BSN, typically full-time and part-time plans available 

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) – traditional education path for an undergraduate who seeks a BSN, typically allowing junior students who are accepted into a full-time nursing program at college or university

Second Degree BSN (or Accelerated BSN Degree) – intended for students with an undergraduate degree in a field other than nursing, with required prerequisites, who complete an accelerated-style nursing program and graduate with their BSN

Best Florida Nursing Schools

Check out the Best Nursing Schools in Florida!

Examples of Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs include Nurse Practitioners, Nursing Leadership and Management, Nursing Education, and Clinical Simulation. Doctorate of Nursing programs are also available for clinical or didactic concentration. 

Florida’s Top 5 Undergraduate Nursing Programs: 

  • University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
  • University of North Florida (Jacksonville, FL)
  • University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
  • Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)
  • University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)

Scholarships and Loans

The Florida Nurses Association provides annual scholarships available for students currently enrolled in approved or accredited nursing programs in the state. In addition, individual schools, universities, and private donors give nursing students thousands of dollars towards education each year. 

For those students who needed to take out a loan to pay for their nursing education, Florida assists licensed nurse professionals (LPN, RN, ARNP) to take part in the Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program. Certain requirements for eligibility apply, but approved individuals can benefit from saving on loan payments up to $4,000 per year for four years. 

Part Ten Labor Unions

Florida law denies state employees the right to strike.

Labor unions are not common practice in Florida, but the biggest active union is National Nurses United (NNU). There are few unionized hospitals in Florida but in 2015, Registered Nurses Associated with the 17 Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) hospitals reached a deal with the NNU to enact improved staffing ratios, break scheduling, and wages. In coming years, it is likely the Florida RN’s will continue to fight for safe patient ratios and fair wages. 

Part Eleven Florida Nursing News

Residual damage from hurricane Irma one month ago still continues to affect patient outcomes in Florida. The period of time when Florida nursing homes suffered without electricity caused many chronically-ill and aging patients to suffer extreme conditions without air-conditioning in the heat.

One particular facility in South Florida lost 14 patients to due to the detrimental effects of situation. The facility has since closed and laid off multiple healthcare employees. Read more here

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