06/13/07 — Wayne Memorial staying ahead of nationwide nursing shortage

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Wayne Memorial staying ahead of nationwide nursing shortage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 13, 2007 1:46 PM

Ongoing concern about the nationwide nursing shortage has prompted Wayne Memorial Hospital to shore up recruitment efforts.

Each year, the hospital sets out to replenish the pool of nurses leaving the profession or retiring.

Visits are made to area colleges where graduates in the field are seeking the best offers. Last year between January and September, 47 new nursing graduates signed on to work at Wayne Memorial. This year's goal was to acquire 50 more.

Orientation began this week for 30 new hires, with more anticipated for the next session in August, said Debbie Smith, staff development educator.

Ms. Smith, a registered nurse in the profession for 25 years, coordinates the residency and extern programs and is responsible for directing orientation of new nurses. She is optimistic about the situation locally.

"I know that our facility has not been in as bad of shape as the national norm," she said. "Also, we have been below the national norm in turnover rate. We have a lot of long-term employees."

Which is not to say it will stay that way. With the median age of nurses hovering at 40, hospitals like Wayne Memorial anticipate the future and fill positions.

"As the nurses get older, we're going to need more and more," Ms. Smith said. "We're continually recruiting and trying to get our staff at a reasonable level."

One way the hospital works internally is through programs geared to high school and college students. High school students taking classes in health occupations and allied health frequent the hospital throughout the school year. While it is primarily in an observational capacity, Ms. Smith said, it still provides a chance for them to gauge future interest in the field.

Nursing school students also have ample exposure to the hospital setting.

"We have a lot of students here from different schools as clinical students," she said. Virtually every related course has a clinical component, requiring hospital training to "learn how to do the things that nurses do," she explained. "We have got nursing students from their first day of clinical to their very last day."

Another opportunity Wayne Memorial offers is the "externs program." Typically, Ms. Smith said, students participate the summer between their junior and senior year of college.

"It's a great PR thing. We pay them as a nurse aide, but they're actually functioning as a nursing student because they're still enrolled in classes," she said. Because they are not yet licensed, each works one on one with a resource nurse, taking on-line classes while participating in the 10-week program.

The effort has proven beneficial, Ms. Smith said. In addition to providing quality training, it shores up the pool of workers for the hospital.

"We then get them as graduates," she said. "It opens the door to the person that hasn't had clinical here but lives close by. They come for the summer and it can convince them this is where they want to (work)...We have four coming this summer that were externs last year."

For new nurses brought on board, the summer orientation sessions offers a concentrated training. All nurses with less than one year's experience, typically brand new graduates, must undergo the one-week orientation session before moving into the residency program, which includes classes and information on policies and procedures.

The next three weeks are devoted to an "alternative experience." Workers are introduced to the lab, radiology, rehab and other departments to "get a picture of the whole picture," Ms. Smith said. The experience will later enable the nurses to better educate their patients.

Rotations through various departments are the final component, providing the chance to see which area of nursing each is best suited. Efforts are made to match each with the area considered the best fit, Ms. Smith said.

Just as important, though, is incorporating the new slate of nurses onto the right team.

"This year clinical educators are going to have a bigger role once they get into their units," she said. "We're trying to match new graduates with (mentors) to make a better fit."