Developing a Supportive Environment for Our Healthcare Workers

Sunday, 19 March 2017: 9:20 AM

Kim Tharp-Barrie, DNP, RN, SANE
Institute for Nursing and Workforce Outreach, Norton Healthcare, Louisville, KY, USA
Tracy Williams, DNP, RN
Norton Healthcare, Inc, Norton Healthcare, Inc., Louisville, KY, USA

In preparation for a three year strategic plan, our organization recently surveyed nurses throughout our five hospital system to understand how we could better maintain and protect our health care staff. We found that staffing shortages, long work hours, retention issues, and inability to maintain a satisfactory work-life balance were the main issues affecting staff. Knowing that these stressors affect employees’ relationships at all levels, our leadership has developed a number of programs that encourage a healthy workplace where employees feel heard, valued, and experience personal satisfaction. Our organization created an Institute for Nursing (I4N) to support the professional growth and practice of nursing. The I4N serves nurses in the system in a variety of ways through their four centers: Nursing Practice, Professional Development, Nursing Outreach, and Nursing Research. The I4N provides a supportive environment for health care workers and has taken steps to insure that our work environment is one that is safe, empowering, and satisfying. Our organization has a chief nursing office in each health care facility to support and give leadership to nursing issues. We have developed a Virtual Employee Model which supports programs that are used to develop the physical, mental and social well-being of all health care workers. We offer pre-college programs that assist employees to realize their dream of attaining a college degree and clinical advancement and leadership development programs which promote life-long learning. We have developed several new programs to attract, train and retain college students and graduate nurses. In order to prepare our new staff to make a successful transition from student to practice, we have developed an apprentice program, an extern program and a new nurse residency program. The purpose of the Nurse Apprenticeship Program is to intentionally invest in future nurses prior to graduation from an accredited nursing program. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of patient care, as well as address the need for additional, well-trained nurses post-graduation. The objectives for the program are to create a two year, tiered experience to follow the guidelines for an accredited apprentice program; exposure and experience in specialty areas prior to graduation; decreased orientation time post-graduation; and decreased turnover by matching their clinical interest with unit specialty prior to graduation. The purpose of the Nurse Extern Program was to allow nursing students the opportunity for a summer of clinical immersion. The seven week program ran from May to July, where a nursing student was paired with a licensed nurse on a unit of their stated preference. Their clinical skills were validated prior to admittance by a nursing faculty at their enrolled school. The objectives for the new Nurse Residency Program are to produce an increase in new graduate nurse retention rates at the six month, one year, and three year marks and to engage new graduate nurses in activities that foster immersion into our system, strengthen nursing practice, and promote professional development. The monthly three hour workshops are designed to support the new graduate nurse’s professional development, evidence-based practice understanding, and enhanced confidence in professional interactions with peers and colleagues, and reflection time. We understand that communication must be open, honest, and allow all parties the opportunity to express themselves. This creates an opportunity for open dialogue, sharing of ideas and team problem solving. In order to encourage honest, positive dialogue we offer continuing education classes to inspire constructive dialogue and behavior among our staff such as lateral violence, diversity in the workplace, and self-care for healthcare, to name a few. We work to identify factors contributing to stress and burnout and learn techniques to balance life physically, mentally and spiritually. We offer a free program for counseling for all employees and their families. We have an NGood Health Program which provides information on healthy food and healthy behaviors which resulted in our organization winning the 2015 Business First Healthiest Employers Award in its category of 5,000 to 49,000 employees. We have an award winning new employee orientation program and onboarding to bring people into our organization with information about what resources are available to them and what the expectations the organization has for them. A healthy work environment means providing one that is safe, empowering and satisfying; an environment where staff has the opportunity to work in a place of “physical, mental, and social well-being,” supporting optimal health and safety. With the programs in place, our organization is poised to continue to provide a healthy work environment where employees feel heard, valued, and experience personal satisfaction. These efforts earned designation as a National League for Nursing (NLN) Center of Excellence 2013-2017 based on, “their visionary leadership sets the standard for nursing education to build a strong and diverse nursing workforce to advance the nation’s health, guided by the core values of caring, integrity, diversity and excellence.”