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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UMC fights back against nurse shortage with student hires

    To curb Arizona’s current nursing shortage, University Medical Center is taking an extra step in reaching out to student nurses at the UA, providing support and training to new students.

    UMC is teaming up with the UA curriculum to combat the nursing shortage and provide patients with much-needed assistance by qualified registered nurses, said Jayne Southworth, UMC nursing recruiter.

    “”We’ve partnered with The University of Arizona. We’re paying for 24 students to go to UA. We’ll pay their tuition, then they’ll work for us for three years,”” Southworth said. “”We provide externships for UA students, too. We have a 10-week summer program, so they can work with nurses and have more practice with clinical skills.””

    Such actions are meant to provide students and nursing hopefuls with a clear path to experience and an eventual career, she said.

    “”We support them as mentors as they go along,”” Southworth said.

    The shortage comes as the result of several factors, one of which is the massive generational gap between nurses.

    “”Nurses are aging,”” says Katie Riley, spokeswoman for the Office of Public Affairs at UMC. “”The average nurse is in their 40s and 50s, and that’s just one issue,”” she says.

    More than one-third of Arizona nurses are over the age of 55, according to the Arizona Heathcare Workforce Data Center.

    The generation gap between veteran nurses and graduate nursing students is so large that medical institutions are often unable to adequately fill their open positions, Riley said.

    There is also a disparity in numbers of students and instructors, and many qualified applicants are turned down as the result of too few teachers, according to the center.

    “”Recently – and I think it’s improving in the last few years – but there haven’t been enough instructors to accept all the people who want to join the school,”” Southworth said. “”That’s resolving somewhat with the push to expand programs, but we need experienced people. We still have vacancies.””

    The extra push in the curriculum is not lost on current nursing students, who are already noticing the added encouragement from UMC and the university, said Megan Befort, a nursing junior.

    “”I think UMC has a great nursing program,”” said Befort, a former pediatrics volunteer at UMC.

    Befort, whose mother was a nurse for 13 years, said she is well aware of the nursing shortage and considers it when thinking about job security.

    “”It’s really comforting to know that I’ll most likely be able to find a job,”” she said. “”If UMC gave me a great job offer, I’d consider staying there for a few years, at least.””

    Such an attitude of students considering UMC in their futures is exactly what UMC is hoping for, since many graduate students leave Arizona following their education. Currently, only 18 percent of UMC nurses are former UA graduates at UMC this year, said Agnes Roncesvalles, UMC’s senior nursing recruiter.

    UMC has hired a record number of new recruits to begin in July, and was recently honored with the coveted Magnet designation, nursing’s highest accreditation. Achieving Magnet status is a key step in attracting and enlisting new nurses.

    While the number of UA graduates hired at UMC isn’t always as high as one might expect, Southworth is hopeful for the future of the hospital’s nursing program, she said.

    “”We’re doing great. We love new grads, and we’re very into teaching. UMC is a teaching hospital. I think we can just give nurses a good start,”” she says. “”Some of our best nurses started as new grads.””

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