Source: The News-Enterprise
ISSUE: Addressing the nursing shortage
OUR VIEW: HMH investments right steps for future
When it comes to a thriving company, executives and leaders regularly are making decisions about immediate problems.
But a good company not only addresses needs and obstacles as they arrive, it foresees future issues and heads them off.
Take, for instance, the national nursing shortage, cited as an 18 to 25 percent average turnover rate. Many hospitals are struggling to fill vacant nursing positions and fighting to retain the nurses they do have.
For some, retaining nurses is difficult in a marketplace with competitive wages. It’s complicated by many nurses retiring and not enough of the younger generation to replace them.
It’s even harder for smaller, regional and community hospitals to recruit and retain nurses to fill their staff, especially when competing with larger metropolitan hospitals.
Leaders at Hardin Memorial Health are developing programs to recruit and retain nurses before shortages reach crisis levels.
The health group has partnered with Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center to develop the next generation of nurses, essentially creating a pipeline from the school to the hospital.
Students at the school can take vocational-style classes in the health sciences field, which gives students a boost when it comes time to enter the job market and think about postsecondary education. Students can take classes and earn certifications in programs ranging from EKG technician, pre-nursing, pharmacy technician, phlebotomy technician and sports medicine. An advanced nursing course is for students who have passed the state registered nurse program and want a more hands-on learning experience.
Those students recently spent classroom hours at Hardin Memorial Hospital working as nurses aides and gaining valuable experience as they were able to observe two caesarian-section births in an operating room, for instance.
Not only does the class provide valuable observation experience because these students have become a certified nursing assistant license, they can work in various medical fields while still in high school.
“It just gives you a foot in the door,” said Makayla Deckard, a Central Hardin High School student who has a job with Signature HealthCare. “We have a lot more advantages than most students.”
Those advantages also are an advantage for the hospital. If these students decide to pursue a career in nursing, HMH is hoping these students’ experience through the program will establish a positive connection with the hospital so students seek jobs there first.
HMH leaders also decided not to ignore its current and loyal staff in its efforts to fill nursing vacancies. Leaders made a wise decision to invest in its current staff to retain more so in the long run, less positions will have to be filled, apart from those becoming available from retirement.
To do that, the hospital found another educational partner with McKendree University in Radcliff.
The college provides an instructor to teach classes at the hospital for staff to earn their Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing.
Recently, the first group of 10 Hardin Memorial Health nurses, who began taking classes in the fall of 2015, celebrated their final session May 8 in the hospital classroom where they’ve been learning. Another 17 are expected to graduate next year.
HMH fully pays for student tuition in exchange for a two-year contract to stay employed with the health group after graduation.
Those involved called the program a win-win and it’s hard to argue the point.
While the hospital retains these nurses — which officials say would cost $68,000 to $75,000 to replace in this region — for at least another two years, the students are able to earn their bachelor’s degree without incurring any debt. Many college graduates cannot say the same.
The advanced degree allows for more job advancements throughout the students’ career.
Through these programs, Hardin Memorial is well below the national average. In fact, according to Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Sharon Wright, the health group has lowered its turnover rate from about 13 percent three years ago to 7 percent.
That’s quite an accomplishment given the hospital’s proximity to larger markets in Louisville and Lexington.
In an industry where foresight is critical in predicting not only marketplace fluctuations, but also patient outcomes, HMH leadership should be commended for recognizing educational partnerships and developing them.
By investing in its current and future staff, it shows leadersship not only values the bottom line, but also its employees. Few things make for higher job satisfaction than feeling valued.