By Lindsay Lorenz
PBN Staff Writer
(Updated, 12:45 p.m.)
PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Action Coalition for the Future of Nursing announced Wednesday morning the launch of a $645,500 statewide clinical nurse residency and mentoring program.
The announcement was made during a press conference at the Rhode Island Foundation that was attended by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley and Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, among others.
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, and providing experience to new graduates of the state’s nursing programs.
Selected nurses will receive a stipend and will practice at three different sites during residencies. 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.
Rhode Island’s residency program is unique in the United States, according to state leaders, as most residency programs are affiliated with specific hospitals or agencies.
The program is also an effort to ensure that as more nurses retire, there will be an adequate number of qualified employees to replace them.
Chafee, who spoke of economic improvement during the press conference, said the government plays a role in workforce preparedness.
“It does concern me that there are companies out there looking for people and that there are people looking for work, and we have to close that gap,” he said.
Chafee said one of the ways the state is working toward this is by increasing contributions to higher education, and by not only providing the required half match of the $150,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant that will back the program, but by contributing $250,000.
“That’s how high a priority it is for us to get ready,” he said.
In addition to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, support from the initiative comes from dozens of partners in the public and private sectors, including the state’s colleges, health care systems, hospitals and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island.
During the press conference, Steinberg called the initiative an “intersection of health care and economic development.”
“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.
Plans for the initiative have been in the works for a few years now, since the release of the Institute of Medicine 2010 Future of Nursing recommended a residency program for the state, according to Lynne Dunphy, a URI faculty member and founding nursing co-lead of the Rhode Island Action Coalition.