Program at Novant Health NHRMC providing nurses with opportunities in other departments, hopes to alleviate shortage issues

The program allows nurses to work on different floors and experience how each may vary.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 11:26 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Many communities across the nation have struggled with a shortage of nurses, an issue that also affects areas of North Carolina.

Cape Fear Community College recently raised over a million dollars for nursing scholarships and Novant Health is offering full scholarships for students pursuing their CNA certification through the Sankofa Training & Wellness Institute, both initiatives seeking to address the shortage in nurses.

Approximately a year and a half ago, Novant Health created a nurse residency program. The program allows nurses to work on different floors and experience how each may vary.

This program provides a unique way for nurses who may not enjoy working in a specific department to experience other areas. It also keeps them interested in working there, as they get a better sense of their preferred department.

“We all know nationally that we have a nursing shortage, so the beauty of this program is it gives us a unique edge here with Novant Health and with our hospital here in Wilmington,” said Ruth Marescalco, assistant nurse manager of nurse residencies at Novant Health NHRMC.

The program brought in about 120 nurses last year, and overall, Novant Health has a 91% retention rate, while the average nationally is about 70%.

According to the North Carolina Board of Nursing, the state had a shortage of approximately 21,000 registered nurses is 2020, which is expected to grow to over 32,000 by 2030.

Hospital representatives say that many employees at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center are eager to join the nurse residency program.

Other health professionals at the hospital say the nursing shortage is still a lingering problem impacting the industry and that the hospital is showing signs that they need additional help.

“We need new grads that are coming in with as we said before, from all over the United States, We need their input, we need their energy, we need what they’ve learned in nursing school and to come to our hospital and help improve our quality systems,” said Heidi Winslow, manager of nurse residencies at Novant Health NHRMC.

Two to three hundred candidates for the summer session have already been interviewed, and the hospital continues to conduct more interviews to fill open spots.

“It gives them an opportunity to be sheltered and nurtured. Where they’re more engaged and more willing to stay at one place rather than go travel, because they feel the support of the team. This program really gives them that extra layer of support,” said Marescalco.

A nurse who is nearing completion of the program is aware of the nationwide nurse shortage but knows that Novant is working to keep up with staff numbers.

“It is a shortage, but they are making sure that I haven’t felt unsafe. Yet, I felt overwhelmed. Of course I felt nervous, but I’ve got my staff here at the hospital, as well as the travelers that we have and they’re very knowledgeable. I feel like I can just turn a corner and ask anyone anything that I need,” said Tanya Harless, a nurse resident at Novant Health NHRMC.

Typically, nurse residency programs are six to nine months, but this one is a year long program. It gives them more time to try out different floors and offers more education and unique learning opportunities over the course of the year.