In the face of a nationwide nursing shortage, Maricopa County is launching a new program to get more nursing school students the hands-on experience they need to thrive in their chosen profession as soon as they graduate.
“Having a nursing shortage during a pandemic is a true crisis, and no one entity can solve it alone,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, District 3. “However, we’ve identified one area where we think we can make a difference, and that’s in making sure more nurses are ready to hire straight out of school.”
Maricopa County graduates more than 2,000 New Graduate Nurses (NGNs) per year, but many of them aren’t immediately practice ready because of the limited availability of clinical placements and Nurse Residency or Transition to Practice programs.
As part of a new pilot program funded through the American Rescue Act Plan, Maricopa County will partner with nursing schools and employers to create and implement a contemporary gold-standard senior student preceptorship experience so NGNs have the knowledge, confidence, and skills to be considered practice ready.
“Without hands-on clinical experiences, NGNs can feel unprepared for and overwhelmed by their first job. In fact, many choose to leave the profession permanently within two years of graduation,” said Robin Schaeffer, the Pilot Project Manager. “And think of it from an employer and patient safety perspective. Since the pandemic hit, hands-on clinical experiences and practice readiness have decreased and onboarding time of NGN hires has increased. This comes at a significant financial cost and adds additional stress to the current staff. It’s just not sustainable.”
In April 2021, there were 5,685 Registered Nurse (RN) vacancies in Maricopa County, a 40% increase compared to April 2020. The shortage is expected to continue over the next several years due to high burnout from the pandemic and a wave of retirements from an aging workforce. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, more than half of registered nurses are over 50 years of age. That makes training and supporting a new generation of nurses critical for the health and wellbeing of our community.
As part of the county’s pilot program, 50 senior nursing students will spend their last six weeks prior to graduation working one on one with a nurse preceptor in one of five professional nursing environments including hospitals and community entities. The pilot program will help with the costs associated with the preceptors and grants for nursing students. The hope is not just to build a larger pool of NGN’s ready to hire upon graduation, but also to keep those nurses in the profession long-term.
“I’m hopeful this program will be a model for how communities can close the education-practice gap and get a new generation of nurses into hospitals and health care settings where they can make a difference and save lives,” said Schaeffer.
For more information visit https://rnconsulting.org.