The current demand for nurses is only expected to grow in the coming years.
Add to that the challenges of a changing health care system on today’s nurses, and the need for a statewide clinical nurse residency and mentoring program becomes clear.
The $645,500 program, spearheaded by the Rhode Island Action Coalition for the Future of Nursing and announced last week, is supported by numerous partners in the private and public sectors.
The program, expected to recruit and place nurses this summer, is designed to improve patient care in Rhode Island while increasing the skills of unemployed and underemployed nurses. It will also provide experience to new graduates of the state’s nursing programs.
The Rhode Island Foundation CEO Neil Steinberg called the program an “intersection of health care and economic development,” and added he was proud to see that Rhode Island had attracted national money, and that its businesses and organizations had partnered together to make a difference.
“Investing in this first-of-its kind program shows that together, we are investing in the future of our state’s health care professionals and quality health care for all Rhode Islanders,” he said in a statement.
According to Lynne Dunphy, a University of Rhode Island faculty member, plans for the initiative have been in the works for a few years, since the release of the Institute of Medicine 2010 Future of Nursing recommendation of a residency program for the state. Dunphy said what’s unique about the program’s statewide model is that it’s educative, not retentive.
Often, nursing graduates will start at a hospital, which will invest in the graduate, and then the graduate will leave, taking what they’ve learned to another institution. That’s not a concern with this program, Dunphy said. Rather, it aims to provide experiences to students that will enhance their employment opportunities, improve their skills and create a vehicle to attaining a bachelor’s degree. But it’s also focused on encouraging nurses to practice beyond acute care.
Nurses who are selected will receive a stipend and will practice at three different sites. Residencies could last up to nine months and will take place in practice settings such as nursing homes, hospitals and community clinics across the state.
Rick Brooks, executive director of the Governor’s Workforce Board, said health care is changing, and one of the issues in the industry is constriction in the acute-care sector and expansion in the outpatient, nonacute sectors. This particularly affects nurses with associate degrees who might not have the necessary skills for other areas.
Peter Andruszkiewicz, CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, said the program encourages nurses to serve in primary care, a critical part of health care. He said that there are already programs to attract physicians to this practice area, but none for nurses.
“But without nurses there is no primary care,” he said. •