black nurse and white nurse bumping elbows

Despite a nursing shortage, the pandemic has sparked new interest in the profession. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing says applications for nursing schools increased in 2020, although tens of thousands of qualified applicants were not accepted “due primarily to a shortage of clinical sites, faculty, and resource constraints.” Even still, those who attend nursing school and graduate aren’t necessarily entering the workforce with the skill set to face the magnitude of the pandemic.

In SimpliFi’s first session of RED2021, “Navigating Labor Challenges in a Pandemic,” an esteemed group of healthcare executives shared their concerns about today’s nursing applicants.

Anna Kiger, VP and System Chief Nurse Officer at Sutter Health, said health systems aren’t seeing the quality nurse candidates that they had in previous years. The candidates who are attending nursing programs and graduating aren’t getting as much experience as they would have before COVID-19, and they’re being thrown into the middle of the pandemic. 

“It’s concerning in a sense because new grads are coming to us who haven’t finished clinical rotations because they couldn’t go into certain hospitals due to COVID-19,” added Claire Zangerle, Chief Nurse Executive of Allegheny Health Network. 

As the pandemic continues, health systems need more eyes, ears, hands, and hearts that can help care for COVID-19 patients.

New nurse turnover

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, newly released data shows approximately “24 percent of RN turnover are those in their first year.” While career advancement and relocation can be attributed to part of this turnover, nurse burnout is also affecting the workforce. Many new nurse grads had never laid a hand on a COVID-19 patient before their first job.

“Today, staffing is on everyone’s mind,” said Beth Beckman, Chief Nursing Executive of Yale New Haven Health System. “We have underlined fatigue and people leaving the profession when they never would have before the pandemic.”

June Altaras, Chief Quality Safety and Nursing Officer for MultiCare Health System, added that “resilience is the most challenging piece of the puzzle” during the pandemic.

Hospitals with high nurse turnover spend an average of $3.6 million each year compared to hospitals with high retention rates, and finding a strategy to attract, train, and retain new RNs is vital to a health system’s success.

Strategy to train and retain new RNs hired during COVID-19

One of the greatest friction points causing turnover among new and experienced nurses is new grad onboarding and precepting. Onboarding newly graduated RNs is a pressure point in every organization and often leads to burnout for the preceptor, incivility, and turnover. 

In traditional onboarding models, the new grad may be seen as an unwanted burden for the preceptor, who has a patient load to tackle while also focusing on training new hires. Additionally, chosen preceptors – while outstanding nurses – might not have the qualities or skillset needed to effectively teach.

To enhance the onboarding experience, SimpliFi created the Confidence Accelerating Practice (CAP) program, which enables health systems to build their nursing workforce of the future while better retaining experienced RNs. The program is not a one-size-fits-all approach but is customized to fit the unique demands of each health system.

Part of SimpliFi’s method involves carefully vetting and training quality preceptors to add to a health system. Through the CAP model, new nurse grads are integrated into patient assignments at a pace that the chosen preceptor, solely focused on training, is able to explain all the necessary details. 

After launching SimpliFi’s CAP program, Allegheny Health Network can speak to its success.

“It has been so well received that we’re scaling it across our network,” said Zangerle.

“Some people are already doing it as a homegrown program but the value SimpliFi brings us is really amazing,” she added.

If you’re interested in learning more about CAP and what it can do for your health system, contact us.