Boston: Training program helps hospitals fill nursing void

Nurses Activism


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by scott w. helman, globe staff correspondent, 1/1/2002

bolstered by the success of the novel program last year, metrowest medical center will continue its in-house training initiative to attract nurses for its emergency rooms and intensive care units, two areas that have suffered from a diminishing pool of qualified candidates.

frustrated by a perpetual lack of emergency care nurses, officials at metrowest medical center, which encompasses leonard morse hospital in natick and framingham union hospital, decided last year to begin cultivating their own crop of talent. the success is clear: out of the 16 registered nurses that signed up for the intensive training programs, 10 have taken nursing jobs in the emergency room and intensive care units.

''right now we're really seeing huge supply and demand issues,'' said ruth walton, chief nursing officer for metrowest medical center. ''it became clear to us... that the only way we were able to bring qualified nurses on board was to develop our own.''

the shortage of nurses in massachusetts and nationwide has been well-documented.

walton noted that just 7 percent of nurses nationwide are 30 and younger. and since it's the younger nurses who are generally attracted to emergency and intensive care work, she said, that means the available pool is bound to shrink.

''finding experienced nurses for this specialty area is very, very difficult,'' walton said. ''we're really at the tip of the iceberg.''

that reality has significantly shifted the approach to hiring, said beth munchbach, the nurse manager of the medical center's emergency department who runs the training course.

''the interesting thing is that these are people that we wouldn't have necessarily hired into the er years ago,'' she said. ''we're taking people who don't have the critical-care background. they need a lot of time to be mentored and to grow into that type of experience.''

kathleen eller is a textbook example.

a former nurse practitioner in new york, eller moved to boston and signed up for the metrowest medical center's emergency room course in the fall. the course ended and eller landed a job in the emergency room at leonard morse.

''for a long time, trying to get into an er [was difficult] because you don't have experience,'' she said. ''this class was kind of unique. i hadn't seen anything like that anyplace else.''

munchbach also pointed out that training programs used to be little more than cursory orientations.

now, she said, with all the rapid changes in health care, nurses well-trained in other specialties need a rigorous education regimen before transferring to the emergency room.

''we used to hurry orientation and only give them the bare bones of what they needed,'' she said. ''now we need to go very slowly and really take the time and give them a variety of resources - some in the classroom and some right there in the clinical arena. a nurse is not a nurse is not a nurse.''

the hospital-sponsored training program is free to nurses at the hospital and open to nonemployee nurses for a $300 fee.

similar programs elsewhere cost thousands of dollars, munchbach said.

munchbach said the emergency and intensive care units at the medical center are already better-equipped because of the program's graduates, and she hopes that will continue. there is a waiting list for the training programs, and the hospital plans to host the next session sometime early this year.

walton said the hospital is also considering holding a refresher course designed for nurses who may have been away from health care.

''it's just being creative and thinking of alternative ways of bringing nurses to your hospital,'' walton said.

and with growing concern over emergency room diversions, walton said, the hospitals need all the qualified nurses they can get.

scott w. helman can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 508-820-4230.

this story ran on page b2 of the boston globe on 1/1/2002.

© copyright 2002 globe newspaper company.


29 Posts

Thanks for the info. Interesting! :)

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