Altru, Sanford welcome new nurse graduatesNeither Altru Health System, based in Grand Forks, or Sanford Health, based in the Dakotas, has a policy requiring newly licensed registered nurses to have one year of experience.
By: Pamela Knudson, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
Neither Altru Health System, based in Grand Forks, or Sanford Health, based in the Dakotas, has a policy requiring newly licensed registered nurses to have one year of experience.
Nursing executives at both organizations said they welcome new nursing grads and offer programs designed to ease their transition into professional practice.
Altru had about 70 RN open positions on Jan. 23, up from 46 a week earlier, according to Rick Gessler, human resources manager.
“That shows you how quickly things change,” he said, pointing to Altru’s growth and employee turnover as factors.
Altru employs about 870 nurses throughout its system, Gessler said. He estimates 150 nurses were hired in 2012.
Sanford is looking to hire 120 licensed practical nurses and RNs for medical centers and clinics in northwest Minnesota and eastern North Dakota. It employs more than 2500 nurses region-wide.
Turnover is costly
A major contributor to higher turnover is the number of nurses who work for a year at Altru and move on to Twin Cities hospitals that require one year of experience, Gessler said.
He understands these nurses are “usually unattached and it’s a time to spread their wings, he said, but it’s costly for Altru from a number of vantage points.
“You’re orienting nurses only to see them leave. The staff needs to work extra hard (to meet work demands). And you have the cost of recruiting the nurse to fill the vacancy.”
Rachel Letvin, who has worked as an RN for almost three years at Altru Hospital, said, “Since I started, there’s been crazy turnover.”
Letvin, who has mentored nursing students and newly hired nurses, started working at Altru as a UND nursing student in a “coop” program during her final semester.
About 70 percent of students in this program are hired by Altru, Gessler said.
Altru also draws nurse graduates from “great feeder programs” based at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake and Northland Community and Technical College in East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, he said.
He attributes the rate of nurse turnover to “the nature of the workforce,” he said.
“They’re committed to their careers, not to the organization. They’re looking for their next opportunity, (unlike) baby boomers who wear our longevity as a badge of honor.”
Younger workers “have seen their parents put many years into a career only to be laid off.”
“The highly mobile workforce is only going to get more intense as America continues to grey,” he said. “Health care is going to keep people around longer, so they continue to draw on the health care system.”
Altru favors early apps
In recent years, Kristine Stoltman, nurse recruiter at Altru, has noticed new nursing grads are waiting to apply for jobs until after they’ve graduated, she said.
“We would love to have them apply during their last semester” of school, she said, allowing time for interviews and other steps to be completed — and employment to begin — earlier.
New nurses may practice at Altru before they pass their board examination for licensure. For those who do not pass, two staff members at Altru are charged with teaching them how to study for the exam and how to control test anxiety.
“They have a 100 percent success rate,” she said.
In addition to its 12-week mentor program for newly hired nurses, Altru provides a critical care residency program to train new and experienced nurses in knowledge and skills necessary to work in areas such as critical care, emergency room, cardiac catheterization and intensive care, Stoltman said, where they deal with trauma, heart problems and multiple organ system breakdowns.
These supportive programs are aimed at retaining nurses, Gessler said. “A nurse retained is one less nurse you have to recruit.”
To help fill the demand for nurses, Altru has also revitalized a program which turns its 3,800 employees into potential recruiters, he said. “Net Employees Catch Cash” awards cash to employees who refer a nurse into the system if the employee and the referred nurse are still on board after three months and again after one year.
The program “has been pretty successful, especially for clinic positions,” he said.
At Sanford, which operates clinics in East Grand Forks and other area communities, the number of nurse openings is “highly fluid” and depends on turnover and demand, said Carla Hansen, chief nursing executive.
“Because nursing in the hospital is 24/7 responsibility, sometimes you have challenges filling different shifts.”
She estimates that Sanford in Fargo hired 200 new graduate nurses for its region last year.
“The need is continually present,” she said, and “will increase when we open a new hospital in October 2016 in southwest Fargo.”
Demand will also heat up in communities throughout the area as people live longer and want to remain in their homes, she said.
Like Altru, Sanford welcomes students working on their bachelor’s degree in nursing “to learn how nursing is practiced at Sanford” in the summer before their senior year, Hansen said.
This summer, 43 students from North Dakota and Minnesota nursing schools have been admitted to the coop program, she said.
Sanford offers an orientation program which couples newly hired nurses with trained, experienced nurses, said Nancy Ruud, director of clinical continuing development.
It also provides a residency program which brings new grad nurses together monthly for additional support and training, she said.
Because most new nursing grads “are hungry for clinical practice,” the majority gravitate to patient care positions in hospital settings, she said, noting that “the opportunities are virtually endless in nursing.”
Many people are pursuing nursing as a second career, a trend “which adds to our diversity,” Hansen said.
Although most of its new nurses come from the Dakotas and Minnesota, economic and environmental issues have attracted nurses from other states, Ruud said.
“They’ve turned out to be wonderful additions to our staff.”