By: Catherine Spader, RN
Whatever happened to the nursing shortage? It’s a question asked by bewildered new graduate RNs who are having an unprecedented tough time in landing a job. In fact, the nursing job market is so tight for new registered nurses that industry experts fear many will be unable to keep their skills sharp and get the experience they need to stay in the field.
However, new graduate RNs can take heart and health care specialists should take note: health care recruitment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 22 percent by 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“This is just a blip on the radar in the demand for nurses," says Nikki West, MPH, project manager for the California Institute for Nursing & Health Care (CINHC) in Oakland, CA. Once the economy picks up, adds West, “there will be an exodus of retiring nurses and we will need competent nurses primed and ready to fill a spike in demand.”
In response to the new graduate RN employment dilemma, CINHC has partnered with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Kaiser Permanente Fund and other foundations and community organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, creating the New Graduate RN Transition Program. The program aims to secure a well-prepared future nursing workforce by offering unemployed new graduate RNs expanded education, training and clinical opportunities.
“We want to take their preparation to a level beyond what they did in nursing school,” says Colleen O'Leary-Kelley, PhD, RN, CNE and co-coordinator of the South Bay New Graduate RN Transition Program curriculum, as well as professor at San Jose State School of Nursing, one of the program partners.
The program, which is divided among four Bay Area regional collaboratives, provides a comprehensive training program for 250 specially-selected new graduate RNs, including a minimum of 16 hours per week of clinical experience coupled with eight hours per week of classroom instruction. It also provides transition nurses with simulation lab experiences, Web-based programs, college and continuing education credits and guest lectures.
A Smart Venture in Future Employee Engagement
One of the clinical sites for the New Graduate RN Transition Program is O’Connor Hospital, a San Jose community hospital. The program began there in June 2010 with four unemployed new graduate RNs who did their clinical time on a variety of units, including med/surg and telemetry. Its success became evident when one of the nurse participants left early to accept a position in another facility’s ICU.
“I believe that the program helped her get a job because transition nurses go through a rigorous interview process and just getting into this program shows employers a very high level of dedication,” says Debra Sun MSN, RN,FNP, a nurse educator at O’Connor Hospital.
Sun adds that ideally, O’Connor Hospital would have been in a position to hire the new nurse in-house. However, she believes the hospital’s investment in the transition nurses is still a smart venture.
“We already invest a lot of time and effort into our nursing students and we want to support them after graduation so they stay in the workforce. In the future we will need more nurses and we will need them now,” she says.
The remaining new nurses graduated from the program at the end of September 2010.
An Investment in Nursing Recruitment
Pulling together the resources needed to fund and staff a similar new graduate program may seem prohibitive during tight economic times. In fact, costs in the CINHC New Graduate RN Transition Program are about $2,000 per participant. Major funding for the program was provided by a $710,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. O'Leary-Kelley points out that, “A program doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, but it does need to be well planned, and it has to be a collaborative with academia and clinical providers.”
The emphasis here is on partnerships. For instance, the New Graduate RN Transition Program partners with over 35 Bay Area nursing schools, health care facilities and other community organizations. The program, curriculum and classroom instructors are provided by local schools of nursing; specially-trained nurse preceptors are provided by the clinical sites, which are not obliged to hire the transition RNs.
“Clinical sites and schools and other community groups, such as the workforce investment boards, are providing either direct funds or in-kind work,” says West. She adds that funding is also available for workforce programs for unemployed skilled workers through the US Department of Labor.
Another organization that is hailing the New Graduate RN Transition Program as successful is Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.
“We get a bang for our buck with this program, because we have put nine RNs through the program who are now very desirable candidates for positions that are opening up here,” says Lawrence M. Marsco, MSN, RN, and Santa Clara’s Director of Nursing Professional Practice. “We have also given these nurses a great toolset to be successful that other new grads don’t have.”
Marsco adds that maintaining the program could potentially decrease the cost of nursing orientation of new graduate nurses in the future.
“In the long run this is something that could translate into cost savings for organizations,” he says.
For more information about grant funding and developing a New Graduate RN Transition Program, contact Nikki West, project Manager of the California Institute for Nursing & Health Care at firstname.lastname@example.org.