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AdventHealth pilots virtual nursing program to support bedside nurses

AdventHealth, like the rest of the health care industry, is experiencing a significant shortage of nurses. According to the Florida Hospital Association, the state could face a shortfall of nearly 60,000 nurses by 2035 if changes aren’t made in how hospitals inspire, recruit and support nurses.

Because of this, AdventHealth’s leaders have made the recruitment and retention of nurses one of the organization’s top priorities. Led by Chief Nursing Executive Julie Vincent, the AdventHealth Central Florida Division is focused on improving work intensity and pay, working with community partners to bring on new nurses, and helping nurses further their education and career goals.

Most importantly, AdventHealth leaders want to hear directly from nurses about the issues affecting the profession and solutions they’d like to see, and so have held focus groups with nurses across AdventHealth’s hospitals and formed a Nursing Advisory Panel of frontline, bedside nurses.

“Over time we’ve had different survey methods to collect feedback from nurses, but we know that we want to create even deeper and richer conversations about what’s important to nurses in practice,” Vincent said during a talk with AdventHealth Central Florida CEO Randy Haffner. “We’ve had more than 300 nurses participate in different focus groups. This is student nurses, experienced nurses, new nurses and nurse leaders giving feedback on all kinds of things. Additionally, the nurse advisory panel welcomes nurses in direct care roles to help make decisions around what’s important to nursing practice.”

Some of the recent changes include:

  • Competitive pay – AdventHealth has invested more than $100 million in 2022 in market pay and bonus initiatives and begun doing more frequent reviews to ensure pay rates are competitive.

  • Education assistance and career growth – From a patient care tech to a nurse manager, team members should have the opportunity to spend their entire career at AdventHealth. Through the Professional Excellence Program, nurses can get in-house training and climb the “clinical ladder” to reach professional career goals and earn additional compensation. This includes recognition for earning a national board certification and specialty skills, precepting new graduates and other professional achievements. AdventHealth also offers team members the ability to pursue a full degree at partner schools debt free, in addition to providing assistance to help clinical team members pay off existing student loans. To date, more than 3,000 employees have taken advantage of these enhanced education assistance benefits.
  • AdventHealth University – AHU has created a Nursing Growth Strategy task force to find ways to expand enrollment and faculty. The university also offers an online course to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and evening classes, allowing students to earn their degree while continuing to work.
  • Work intensity – Recognizing the emotional, mental and physical toll the pandemic has had on nurses, AdventHealth is looking for innovative solutions to address their work intensity and provide support. In addition to adding licensed practical nurses and patient care techs to expand the team model, one idea currently being piloted is an additional “virtual” nurse. By video conferencing into patients’ rooms, these remote, highly qualified nurses are able to handle some of the routine, clerical work for admissions and discharges that takes up nurses’ time and alert the in-person nurse to any issues. That way, beside nurses can work to the top of their licenses.

  • Mental health support – Caring for others is rewarding, but it can also be emotionally challenging. Because of this, AdventHealth now offers counseling services as part of the health benefits plan and has brought on mental health specialists to directly support nurses. Through the Ginger app, all team members also have access to a mental health coach 24/7.

  • Recruitment – Not only do AdventHealth leaders want to support current nurses, they also want to inspire the nurses of tomorrow. Building on a longtime relationship with the local nonprofit Jobs Partnership, there is a goal to upskill members of the community who want to enter the medical field as patient care techs, and eventually, grow into more advanced nursing roles. This year, AdventHealth Waterman also opened a dedicated education unit in partnership with Lake-Sumter State College, a program that pairs up student nurses with a nurse mentor during their eight-week clinical rotations.

“All of these changes are designed to ensure nurses feel cared for physically, mentally and spiritually as they provide healing to the sick and hurting. When nurses feel whole, they can bring their best selves to the bedside and deliver the very best care,” Vincent said. “Through their exceptional care, invaluable knowledge and uncommon compassion, our nurses have a tremendous impact on patient lives. We are strengthening our support to allow our nurses to have what they need to thrive and to feel whole at AdventHealth throughout their entire career.”

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