Mentor program to target nurses

Hospital aims to help orient and retain much-needed workers

September 09, 2001|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,SUN STAFF

Carroll County General Hospital is beginning a mentoring program to help sorely needed, newly trained nurses adjust to the challenges facing them in their first jobs.

The program, which will begin next month, will involve four senior nurses who will be mentors assigned to the hospital's critical care, emergency room, general medicine and surgery departments. The mentors will be responsible for new nurses in the departments where they are assigned.

"You want to do everything you can to hold on to new hires. You want to give them a positive environment that they want to stay in," said Leslie Simmons, vice president of patient care services at Carroll County General.

The initial class will consist of 14 nurses. Mentors will be responsible for coordinating an orientation for the new nurses, helping them with their assignments and gathering daily and weekly evaluations to assess the new nurses' satisfaction.

Those assessments should help the hospital identify areas where more equipment or training is needed, Simmons said. Mentors also will organize social events to help new nurses get acquainted with the senior nursing staff, she said. New hires will remain in the mentoring program for up to one year, Simmons said.

The mentoring program is based on recommendations by Advisory Board Co., a Washington-based medical research organization that has found an average 10 percent decrease in turnover among new hires at hospitals using similar programs.

Like many other hospitals in Maryland, Carroll County General has suffered a severe shortage in its nursing staff in recent years. To find ways to help alleviate the shortage, the Maryland General Assembly formed the Maryland Commission on the Crisis in Nursing last year.

This fall, a licensed practical nursing program was approved by the state and has been established at Carroll Community College in the hopes of increasing the number of nurses available to the hospital. The college is also constructing a building to create a registered nurse program; RNs are trained and permitted to administer medicines that a licensed practical nurse, or LPN, is not.

The Maryland Board of Nursing has found a sharp decline in the number of nurses working and living in Carroll County during the past three years. On Dec. 31, 1997, 860 RNs and 330 LPNs were practicing in Carroll, and 1,827 RNs and 410 LPNs lived in the county. On Dec. 31, 2000, the numbers were down to 691 RNs and 249 LPNs working in the county and 1,515 RNs and 319 LPNs living here.

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