Hospitals Focus on Keeping Nurses Happy

Hospitals Focus on Keeping Nurses Happy

Kim Lindley (right) a registered nurse and a pediatric volunteer comforts Christian Henard (center), a one year-old having a medical procedure, performed by Heather Cutright (left), a registered nurse at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. (Dawn Majors

Blythe Bernhard / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

November 26, 2008

When the nurses are happy, everybody is happy.

Hospitals know that nurses’ attitudes toward their jobs can affect patient satisfaction and employee morale. Facing high turnover rates and a national nursing shortage, hospitals are increasingly focused on supporting their nurses.

One way to keep nurses satisfied is to make sure they feel comfortable with the transition from nursing school to the fast-paced, high-stress working environment of a hospital.

This fall, Des Peres Hospital became the first hospital in Missouri to offer the Versant RN Residency program to new hires to prepare them for their first nursing jobs out of school. The program provides a nurse training curriculum and online evaluation system that hospital staff use to track residents’ progress.


During the 18-week residency, new nurses spend a quarter of their time in the classroom and the rest on the hospital floor with mentors. Classes are taught by people working in the hospital’s pharmacy, social work, physical therapy, respiratory and other departments to help the nurses build relationships throughout the hospital.

The residents receive mentoring from nurses who have been working two to three years and remember the challenges of starting a new job.

The area’s largest hospital, Barnes-Jewish, said its orientation program for newly graduated nurses typically lasts eight to 12 weeks, or up to 16 weeks of specialty training for the intensive care unit.

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belle­ville started using the Versant program in 2006 and has reduced its newly hired nurse turnover rate in the first year to 14 percent from 50 percent, said Donna Meyers, the program’s manager.

“Nurses left nursing because of lack of support — and stress,” Meyers said. “The hospital has had a change in culture. People are excited about the residency.”

Versant is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group that works with hospitals to improve their nurse-retention rates.

According to the American Hospital Association, the job vacancy rate for registered nurses in U.S. hospitals is about 8 percent, but the rate is expected to more than triple over the next decade.

Sally Nagel was one of 16 registered nurses who graduated last week from St. Elizabeth’s residency program.

“The stress of multitasking on a medical surgical floor is a lot different than being a student,” Nagel said. “I’m 100 percent more confident than I was the day that I started.”

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