Preparing the next generation of nurses – that’s the mission of AdventHealth Waterman’s new education unit.
The first of its kind for the hospital system’s Central Florida Division, the education unit opened this past spring semester in partnership with Lake-Sumter State College’s nursing school in an effort to stem the nursing shortage. As baby boomer nurses retire, the Florida Hospital Association estimates the state could face a shortfall of nearly 60,000 nurses by 2035.
It’s just one of the ways AdventHealth is working to recruit new nurses, said Michael Stimson, chief nursing officer for AdventHealth Waterman, and create a pipeline into the profession for local students.
“We want to be the hospital of choice for nursing graduates in our community,” Stimson said.
Through the program, each student is paired with an AdventHealth preceptor nurse, and once a week for eight weeks they’re able to observe and practice skills that they’ve only heard about in lectures or seen in textbooks. Most nursing students get the opportunity of working on a hospital floor while they’re in school, but not always in a one-on-one setting.
“Being able to see things from my textbook brought to life, being able to get that one-on-one, and getting to see different things that you wouldn’t normally see as a big group – it’s very helpful,” Patrice Martin, a Lake-Sumter State College student who enrolled in the unit, said. “It feels like I got more because I was able to have that one-on-one and got to see things and do things with the nurse and do things for the nurse with her supervision. I would 100% recommend it. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had.”
For many of the students, it was their first time caring for patients. Christina Vega and Sionne Yee, student-nurses who were also part of the first class, said having an experienced nurse beside them helped calm their nerves. “Because I know we’ll be able to handle the situation,” Yee said.
And for the nurse mentors, it’s a chance to pass down their sage wisdom.
“The experience of being a nursing student and being a new nurse is still pretty fresh to me, so I was really excited to be able to participate in this program. It’s something I wish I could have had,” said Amy Elwood, a nurse at AdventHealth Waterman and a Lake-Sumter graduate. “As a preceptor to these students, I’m doing my best to think out loud, to share with them the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
Diane Holmes, another nurse mentor and LSSC alumna, added: “This way they get to see how it is, what you’re going to be doing, is this really for you. Because when you’re in school and you’re working on mannequins versus a person who talks to you, it’s a big difference.”
Elwood hopes the students she mentors will one day become colleagues.
“I want these new students to feel excited and as comfortable as they can so they want to stay here with us,” she said. “We need more nurses alongside us.”