Partners in Nursing: A Mentoring Initiative to Enhance Nurse Retention

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT This article describes a community-based mentoring program, Partners in Nursing (PIN), which was developed as a collaborative effort to address the nursing workforce shortage. While the primary goal was to increase retention rates of new nurse graduates, the program also produced secondary benefits of professional development and outreach opportunities. Furthermore, through the creation of PIN, local resources were identified to support new graduates and cultivate leadership potential. While the program was deemed effective, continued research is needed to quantify the benefits of such programs so that similar initiatives can be successfully replicated.

Key Words Mentoring--Nursing Shortage--Retention--Outreach Leadership

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BUSINESS AND HEALTH CARE COMMUNITIES HAVE LONG BEEN AWARE OF THE CRITICAL NURSING SHORTAGE AND ITS SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON HEALTH SERVICES. In 2010, the US Department of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 22 percent increase in the demand for RNs, or 581,500 new jobs by 2018, to total a projected 1,039,000 jobs needed to be filled by 2018 (BLS, 2010; O*NET Resource Center, 2010). The need for health care is expected to intensify as more members of the baby boom generation retire (Dall, 2007). Further complicating the picture is the fact that many nursing schools are struggling to expand.

At a time when the need for replacement nurses is at crisis proportions, it is estimated that 13 percent of new graduates in the national nurse workforce are at risk of leaving their current jobs/organizations (Kovner et al., 2007). Not only does this create serious consequences for health care facilities in terms of staffing and patient care, but there are also significant fiscal implications as the cost of training each "replacement" nurse reaches $74,888 (Daniel, 2006).

The literature is replete with explanations of why the nursing shortage continues to be critical and is unlikely to be reversed any time soon. There are myriad reasons that nurses leave their positions in hospital-based settings to move on to other organizations, alternative areas of practice, or leave the profession altogether to pursue new careers. These include: lack of appreciation from superiors; a diminished sense of value within the organization; and lack of professional stimulation (Gardulf et al., 2005). Other issues impacting nurse satisfaction are salary and stress-related factors, such as long shifts; fear of physical injury; and inability to meet patients' needs (Letvak & Buck, 2008). These concerns may also lead to declines in productivity, resulting from associated physical and psychological stressors, and, ultimately, to earlier retirement in an already aging workforce employed in direct patient care settings. Newly graduated nurses are at an especially heightened risk for leaving the profession, noting inadequate support and mentoring beyond the typical orientation period (Almada, Carafoli, Flattery, French, & McNamara, 2004).

Substantial evidence supports the position that nurse turnover is costly. Not only are there the obvious consequences associated with turnover, such as the costs of advertising and recruiting, subsequent retraining of new staff, and reliance on expensive agency and traveling nurses, but there are also the hidden costs of lost productivity and organizational knowledge (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees [AFSCME], 2008; Jones & Gates, 2008). The loss of organizational history from a lack of staff continuity can, in turn, compromise process improvement initiatives, such as those aimed at environmental safety and quality of patient care, as well as morale (Rothwell, 2004). Hospitals with high turnover rates also experience higher costs per discharge and, therefore, lower profitability (Voluntary Hospitals of America, 2008).

Background of the Program The Partners in Nursing (PIN) program evolved from a national grant initiative sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson and the Northwest Health Foundations. …