The pandemic has laid bare what people in the healthcare industry have known for years: there just aren’t enough nurses in this country. The pre-existing shortage was compounded when pandemic-induced burnout led to a wave of quits across the country. And with another 500,000 nurses set to retire this year, the country will need 1.1 million new nurses by the end of 2022, according to the American Association of Nurses.
COVID-19 has also complicated the process of transitioning new nurses from classroom to bedside. Many were unable to undergo hands-on training in hospitals due to strict safety protocols and as a result left nursing school with less practical experience than previous generations.
Saint Francis-Memphis Hospital attempts to bridge this gap.
“We recognize that during the pandemic there were fewer opportunities for nurses to gain real clinical experience in a hospital setting, and this can make the transition to providing patient care in a hospital setting daunting,” said Cameron Murphy, head nurse at Saint Francis. Hospital-Memphis.
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The hospital is recruiting new nurses for its Novice Registered Nurses program, which will pair early-career nurses with experienced nurses to provide mentorship and other on-the-job training as new nurses begin work full-time, said program director Susan Wood. Currently, the program is only running at Saint Francis Hospital in Memphis.
“Saint Francis’ program is more unique. This encompasses the preceptorship program, where they learn to become a true professional nurse,” she said. “And that means putting in IVs, taking blood pressure, assessing patients, managing pain, but we also add a few other components that aren’t typically seen.”
In addition to helping nurses build confidence at the bedside, the program also aims to help them master other skills, such as time management, how to communicate with patients and doctors, and drills. team building outside of the hospital, Wood said.
The novice registered nurse program will also include tests on hospital policies. Wood said the tests aren’t punitive, just to make sure nurses have a good grasp of things that are often thrown away quickly during an orientation period.
“I think it helps them a lot because they don’t understand the liability and the legalities sometimes associated with nursing,” she said.
Wood said for the first class, they hoped to have six or eight nurses who would all start at once to create the feeling of a cohesive team.
Participants in the program are fully qualified and certified nurses who receive competitive salaries and benefits, according to the hospital. The program simply incorporates more structured opportunities for feedback from experienced nurses and provides a peer group for new nurses.
Nurse Lindsay Hale, who started nursing at Saint Francis last year, said having other nurses around you at the same stage of their careers is key. She had another nurse who started at the same time as her and said the two often texted each other to reassure themselves that they weren’t the only ones feeling a bit overwhelmed.
“You come into an environment where there are a lot of nurses who know what they are doing. And so you’re constantly looking around and questioning yourself,” she said. “So you have other nurses with you who are at the same (stage)… I mean, it brings you a lot of comfort.”
Nurse Amber Webb, who went through a similar program when she started to become a nurse and will be a mentor for new nurses at Saint Francis, said being part of an early-career group of nurses can also be beneficial because being among peers can make people less afraid to ask questions and some people might ask questions you hadn’t thought of.
“I couldn’t imagine starting without it because it was so beneficial. It bridges that gap…school is totally different from real-world nursing,” Webb said. “It’s totally different when you’re with the person who’s going through something or who’s in pain or you have these other things on top of giving medication or starting an IV.”
The program is supposed to last around 12 weeks but can be extended. And while formal mentoring may end after those three months, young nurses will have bonded with their peers and with more experienced nurses, giving them a network of people they can turn to for advice.
“You want to start breastfeeding this way if you can,” Webb said. “Instead of just walking in and getting to work, you pretty much have someone to work with.”
For Webb, her mentor has become one of her best friends and is still someone she turns to for advice seven years later. And even after years of work, Webb said the opportunity for feedback and reassurance was important.
“It’s a big job. You take care of people… you can make the difference between saving their lives or something happening,” she said. “It’s just a very anxious type job, especially in the beginning.”
Nurses will work on two floors at Park Avenue Hospital which was recently completely renovated. The novice RN team will work on the orthopedics floor and on the oncology floor, where they will work with West Clinic physicians in a partnership with that organization.
This partnership also includes the establishment of cancer patient-specific urgent care where patients, many of whom are severely immunocompromised, can go to get the same type of services they would seek in an emergency room in a safer environment.
Wood said no matter where new nurses start their careers, her advice was the same.
“The only words of wisdom I can give to new nurses coming in are: be passionate, be compassionate and be open-minded to learn because that’s what they’re here for,” he said. she stated. “You are there for the patient. This is the most important thing.
Corinne S Kennedy covers health care and economic development for The Commercial Appeal. She can be contacted by email at [email protected]
How to register
For more information about joining the Novice RN program at Saint Francis Hospital in Memphis, call Shaska Graham at 901-765-1961.