HealthTrust Workforce Solutions has launched a unique educational opportunity to meet a critical need for specialty nurses: Specialty Training Apprenticeship for Registered Nurses (StaRN).
“We have an interesting phenomena going on right now in nursing,” said Tony Pentangelo, executive vice president of managed services for Workforce Solutions. “It’s very competitive for critical care nurses in particular.”
In the Florida market, he added, a significant number of new nursing graduates were licensed and had passed their boards. However, a shortage of positions for beginning nurses left many of these graduates unemployed or under-employed. “We had licensed nurses working as waitresses,” Pentangelo said.
On the flip side, he noted, hospitals were competing against each other for specialty care nurses or bringing in contract nurses to try to meet demand. “The hospitals won’t take newly licensed nurses for critical care,” Pentangelo said, adding that almost never happens. “The intensity and the acuity of the patients are just too high. Typically, they want at least two years of experience.”
The need at one end and surplus on the other had created a frustrating ‘catch 22’ for both area hospitals and young nurses. “We think this helps bridge that gap a little bit,” Pentangelo said of StaRN.
The intensive, 13-week program for nursing graduates combines classroom instruction, a robust simulation experience and hands-on clinical training done in conjunction with a regional academic partner. Upon completion, the nursing graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skill set typically found in more experienced staff nurses.
The first half of the program is spent in the classroom and simulation labs where nurses get hands-on experience in a very controlled environment. The last half of the program is spent in a clinical preceptorship. “It really helps them understand how to apply the knowledge in a patient scenario,” Pentangelo noted.
Prospective candidates interview with the hospitals so they are pre-identified for the units in need. The hospitals then pay a placement fee that covers the cost of the StaRN program. In exchange, the participating nurses make a two-year commitment to work at the sponsor hospital. Training during the course can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the sponsor hospital.
While there is an out-of-pocket cost to the hospitals, Pentangelo said it doesn’t compare to the expense of bringing in contract nurses year-round, particularly if a hospital is paying signing bonuses, housing allowances, and travel stipends. “We estimate that if a facility can replace a contract labor FTE (full-time equivalent), the savings is upward of $100,000 per (StaRN) nurse.”
Another benefit is the young nurses typically already have ties to the community unlike travel nurses that have no real reason to stay beyond their contract period. “These local nurses want to stay in the town. They’re committed to the town. They know the hospital,” Pentangelo stressed. Hiring locally also enhances the hospital’s hometown relations by reinvesting in the community.
“When hospitals can’t find specialty-trained nurses, they are forced to use costly alternative measures such as hiring temporary contract labor, which does not address the core problem: the shortage of experienced, specialty-trained nurses,” said Pentangelo. “StaRN offers a way forward that provides short- and long-term benefits to hospitals and nurses, alike.”