By Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC
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With National Nurses Week 2017 just behind us, nurses everywhere – Cleveland Clinic nurses included – are experiencing a renewed pride for their chosen profession.
Additionally, as the theme of the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) 2017 Nurses Week was “Nursing: the Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit,” nurses are also more acutely aware of just how important their own health is to both personal and career success. As the ANA has dubbed this year the “Year of the Healthy Nurse,” the annual honorary week focused on celebrating those who lead the charge for health and wellness.
However, as nurses continue to reflect on their own health and wellness and the importance of self-nurturing, I am also reminded of the importance of another necessary form of nurturing – nurturing the next generation of nurses.
Preparing the next generation
As baby boomer nurses continue to retire and the U.S. population continues to grow at an exponential rate, it is imperative that today’s nurse leaders look to the future.
For years, Cleveland Clinic’s nursing institute, like many nursing organizations, has been working to implement programs and initiatives to not only attract and retain highly skilled nurses, but also to help properly educate, train and shape future nurses.
For example, in 2015, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our award-winning Dean’s Roundtable, a partnership program with local schools of nursing with a long history of success in working to ensure that higher nursing education aligns with the skills needed for real-world practice.
Additionally, a few years ago, we launched a one-of-its-kind health system-based New Graduate Nurse Residency program. The residency offers a roadmap for aiding new nurses in the transition from academia to professional practice. Its two primary goals are: to improve the practice readiness of new Cleveland Clinic nurses to ensure a competent workforce; and to provide the enhanced training, skills and knowledge needed to deliver world-class patient care where safety is a priority.
Similarly, we also have a perioperative nurse residency program that is offered to new operating room nurses. This residency provides didactic and hands-on/simulation-based instruction, integrated with the opportunity to apply these skills under the watchful eye of a skilled preceptor.
With many programs and opportunities designed for the nursing student and new nurse, our Office of Nursing Education and Professional Development, led by Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Joan Kavanagh, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, is continually striving to ensure nurses have the competencies and skills to provide excellent patient care.
Most recently, our work has encouraged us to explore opportunities to reach out and work with prospective nurses earlier in their proposed careers.
For example, we reinstituted our Nurse Associate Extern program, which is tailored toward nursing students entering their senior year in an accredited BSN program.
When the program launched in 2015, we had 30 students from 18 nursing schools in five states participate. Eighty-seven percent of participants said they would pursue a career at Cleveland Clinic, and 94 percent of nurse managers said they would hire their associates after completion of their degrees. In 2016, 70 students participated in the program.
Not only does this initiative help build our pipeline, it also helps ensure new nurses are better prepared for practice.
And, just a few months ago, in collaboration with Cuyahoga Community College and the Howley Family Foundation, we launched a new nurse scholars program that targets prospective nurses who are juniors and seniors in high school.
It’s called ASPIRE and it’s designed for those who aspire to become nurses.
As a high school enrichment program, it seeks to develop underrepresented high school juniors and seniors for careers in professional nursing. The program supports participants in building a foundation of necessary skills as juniors, continuing as mentors when they are seniors, transitioning to Cleveland Clinic caregivers upon graduation from high school; and, eventually, achieving their registered nursing degree.
Program curriculum includes a combination of speakers, life skills, simulation, hands-on clinical skills, a shadowing experience, student presentations, and more.
The time is now
With such high numbers of experienced, veteran nurses on the verge of retirement, the time to nurture the next generation of nurses is now. From students currently earning their high school degrees to those pursuing higher education degrees, there are numerous opportunities for nurse leaders and organizations alike to step in and provide the guidance and support needed to help prepare new nurses, and positively impact the future of the nursing profession.
Kelly Hancock is the Executive Chief Nursing Officer of the Cleveland Clinic Health System, and Chief Nursing Officer of Cleveland Clinic Main Campus.
Follow Kelly on Twitter at @kkellyhancock.