What You Need to Know About Working as a Nurse in Florida

12 Min Read Published November 6, 2023
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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Why Work In Florida?

Florida is one of the top employers for nurses nationwide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Florida ranks #3 for the 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, the cost of living is among the lowest in the U.S. Additionally, Florida is one of only nine 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 7 of America's top 27 beaches, 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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Florida Nurse Demand and Career Outlook

Florida is the 3rd largest employer of nurses in the U.S. and demand will only continue to increase. Currently, 197,630 nurses are employed in Florida according to the BLS.

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. According to research, the nurse workforce in Florida lost about 1,300 nurses to retirement in 2016-17. Unfortunately, the Florida State Board of Nursing has not conducted another study to determine the current needs of the state. 

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. 

The Florida Hospital Association released a study that reported that by 2035, Florida is projected to face a shortage of more than 59,000 nurses. According to an analysis from HealthAffairs, the total number of registered nurses has dropped by more than 100,000 from 2020 to 2021. 

Florida Nurse Salary & Benefits

The BLS most recent data reports a mean annual salary of $79,910 for Registered Nurses in Florida. The average hourly wage is reported to be $38.42 per hour.

According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average annual pay for an RN Nurse in Florida is $68,005 a year or $33 an hour. Top paying cities in Florida include, 

City

Annual Salary

Hourly Wage

Tallahassee

$94,734

$45.55

Naples

$92,281

$44.37

Bonita Springs

$88,513

$42.55

Pembroke Pines

$87,720

$42.17

Gainesville

$87,307

$41.97

West Palm Beach

$87,047

$41.85

Winter Haven

$86,004

$41.35

Miami Beach

$84,842

$40.79

Sarasota

$84,435

$40.59

St. Petersburg

$83,826

$40.30

Pay varies by the 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 in outpatient centers. Florida nurses who work 12-hour shifts (unless in the ED) typically work straight nights or straight days

Overtime is typically available to nurses at an 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). 

Benefits are available for Full-Time Registered Nurses.  For FT RNs, benefits packages include,

  • Health Insurance

  • Life Insurance

  • Short-term and long-term disability, 

  • Dental and vision

  • 401k retirement savings. 

Florida does not have specific maternity and paternity leave laws, so most RNs use short-term disability insurance to cover paternity and maternity leave.  

Florida State Board Of Nursing

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

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 a Florida-approved or accredited nursing education program.
  • Graduation from a Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredited nursing program that has been issued an NCLEX code by NCSBN.
  • Graduation from a nursing education program that is approved or recognized by the jurisdiction in which it is based and that has been issued an NCLEX code by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
  • 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.

The process for application, according to the website, is as follows: 

  • Applicant must submit an application with the appropriate fees to the Board of Nursing and begin registration with Pearson VUE, the testing vendor.
  • Applicant schedules an electronic fingerprint appointment with a Livescan service provider and is fingerprinted.
  • Once all materials are submitted, an application specialist will review them. It may be necessary for the application specialist to request additional information.
  • If eligibility requirements are met, the applicant will receive an eligibility letter with instructions regarding registration with Pearson VUE. Approval is transferred to Pearson VUE.
  • Upon passing the licensure examination the initial 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 the 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. 

Compact Nursing License

Since January 2018, Florida has been part of the Nurse Licensure Compact which grants a multi-state license to any nurse licensed in one of the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Guam
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

In order to be eligible to have a Florida compact license, you must meet the following requirements

  • You must hold a Clear, Active, Florida license.
  • You must declare Florida your primary state of residency. (Primary state of residence, as defined by the Compact, means the person’s declared fixed, permanent, and principal home for legal purposes; domicile.) Proof of residence may include one of the following: a driver’s license, voter registration card, federal income tax return, or a W2.
  • Your license status must be unencumbered (“Encumbrance” means a revocation or suspension of, or any limitation on, the full and unrestricted practice of nursing imposed by a licensing board.)
  • LiveScan results must be submitted no more than 90 days prior to the submission of the application and fees or anytime within a year of applying.
  • You must not have a felony conviction.
  • You must not have a misdemeanor related to the practice of nursing.
  • You must not be enrolled with IPN or any other treatment program for the impaired.
  • You must have a social security number.
  • You must have passed the NCLEX.
  • Foreign education must be evaluated by an independent credentials review agency.
  • Foreign education not completed in English will require an English Competency exam.
  • There is a $100 fee for this license. 

License Renewal

Renewals for nursing licenses in Florida occur in three different groups during the month of  April (2 groups) and July. 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 $75. Fees vary if the status of your Florida license has lapsed to inactive or retired. 

Magnet Hospitals in Florida

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) awards hospitals that demonstrate a high degree of quality nursing, according to set standards, with 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
Advent Health at Celebration Celebration
Advent Health for Children Orlando
Baptist Health System of Miami Miami
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
Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital Jacksonville
Doctors Hospital Coral Gables
Homestead Hospital Homestead
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital St. Petersburg
Mayo Clinic Florida Jacksonville
Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Tampa
Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Miami
Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children/Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies Orlando
Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center Orlando
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System Sarasota
South Miami Hospital Miami
Tampa General Hospital Tampa
UF Health Jacksonville Jacksonville
UF Health Shands Hospital Gainesville
West Kendall Baptist Hospital Miami
Wolfson Children’s Hospital Jacksonville

Continuing Education Requirements

CE requirements are listed on the Florida Board of Nursing website. All hours must be board approved. All mandatory courses must be offered by a Florida Board of Nursing approved provider, with the exception of the 2 hour Human Trafficking course.

Biennium Requirements:

  • General Hours = 16 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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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.” 

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 full-time 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 a 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.

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

Best Florida Nursing Schools

Florida’s Top 5 Nursing Schools: 

  • University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
  • Jacksonville University (Jacksonville, FL)
  • University of Miami (Miami, FL)
  • Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)
  • Florida Southern College (Lakeland, 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 need 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. 

Florida 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. 

How to Become a Nurse in Florida

Step 1: Enroll in an Accredited Nursing Program

First, decide whether you want to earn an ADN or a BSN. If you are attending an ADN or BSN program, it is essential to select a program with accreditation from:

Step 2: Obtain Licensure

Following graduation, obtaining a nursing license is the next step. Passing the appropriate licensing exam, such as the NCLEX-RN for registered nurses, demonstrates your competence and opens the door to starting your career as a new nurse.

Step 3: Pursue Specialized Certifications

If interested in focusing on a specific nursing specialization, earning additional certifications in that field will help. These certifications showcase your expertise and can enhance your career prospects.

Step 4: Continue Learning

The nursing profession thrives on continuous learning. Regularly completing Continuing Education Units (CEUs) is a requirement for maintaining your nursing license. Moreover, as your nursing journey progresses, consider further education, like pursuing a BSN, MSN,  or DNP. Achieving higher levels of education typically also means increased earning potential.

Florida Nursing Education Resources

Becoming a nurse in Florida starts with an accredited nursing education. You can peruse Nurse.org's comprehensive education resources to learn about the best nursing programs in Florida, their tuition costs, requirements, and more.

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