Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nursing Responsibilities Nurse Program Offers Clinical Experiences

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nursing Responsibilities Nurse Program Offers Clinical Experiences

Article excerpt

The director of nursing operations at the Orange Park Medical Center hopes she has found a cure for the nursing shortage that is plaguing the health-care industry.

In May, the hospital began implementing Ellyn Dunlap's brainchild, a 12-week graduate nurse program that combines classroom and clinical experiences and gradually introduces new nurses to their roles and responsibilities.

"It just materialized four years ago," Dunlap said, when she was working at University Hospital.

A nurse for 30 years, she said she felt the program would be a success at Orange Park Medical Center because of its teamwork ethic.

Melanie Penley, a graduate of Florida Community College at Jacksonville's nursing school and a member of the first orientation class, said she is pleased with her experience.

"I'm learning new things," said Penley, a registered nurse. "It makes me very comfortable. Everyone in the hospital knows about this program."

During the first six weeks of training, the graduate nurses are on the same primary care unit, working five-day, eight-hour shifts, supervised by experienced nurses. They also have classroom sessions prior to the actual hands-on clinical care.

Lisa Tolbert, a 10-year nurse from Interim Healthcare in Jacksonville, said classes on administering medication and documentation help protect the graduate nurses and the hospital from making mistakes.

"There's liability when you have medical errors dealing with documentation," she said. "Because if you didn't document it, it didn't get done."

"Some hospitals will promise these long programs for training," said Holly Ussery, a participating graduate nurse. "But because they need you, they throw you into unfamiliar situations."

Pat Carlisle, a registered nurse and clinical instructor at Orange Park, said the first six weeks of training makes a huge difference from what is usually done hastily in one week, or maybe two to three days because of the need for nurses.

"It's disappointing," she said.

Also during the six weeks, veteran nurses are each assigned three to four graduates and will care for the same patients as the new nurses, which is expected to ease conflicting workloads.

Experienced nurses often run into problems teaching new nurses because they have their own patients to take care of, said Rosalind Sams, who works at Life Care Center at Wells Crossing.

"It's such a high turnover for the staff, you don't have time to do your job

and oversee someone else," the six-year nurse said.

The remaining six weeks, the graduates are assigned to their specific units and are scheduled hours and shifts. Each week is a new phase with specific objectives and gradually increasing patient loads, which is very good, Sams said.

"In school, you usually work with two patients. …

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