Nurse Shortages Have Hospitals on Call
Rash Madkour / AP
March 16, 2009
Building their skills
Medical school grads get on-the-job training during formal residencies ranging from three to seven years. Many newly licensed nurses do not have a similar protected period as they build their skills and get used to a demanding environment.
Some hospitals have set up programs to help new nurses make the transition. Often, they assign novices to more experienced nurses, whom they shadow for a few weeks or months while they learn the ropes. That’s what O’Bryan’s hospital did, but for her, it wasn’t enough.
So more hospitals are investing in longer, more thorough residencies. These can cost roughly $5,000 per resident. But the cost of recruiting and training a replacement for a nurse who washed out is about $50,000, personnel experts estimate.
One national program is the Versant RN Residency, which was developed at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and since 2004 has spread to 70 other hospitals nationwide. One of those, Baptist Health South Florida in the Miami area, reports cutting its turnover rate from 22 percent to 10 percent in the 18 months since it started its program. The Versant plan pairs new nurses with more experienced nurses and they share patients.
For Yaima Milian, who’s currently in the program at Baptist Health, this is markedly different from the preparation she got at her first hospital in New Jersey. She left after a six-week orientation because she didn’t feel ready to work solo.
Besides the residency’s professional guidance, which includes classroom instruction, new nurses also get personal support from mentors.
“Here you have this group that is pretty much experiencing the same things you’re experiencing,” Milian said, “and it makes you feel better.”
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