Education and Retention Initiatives

Preparing our nurses for the day-to-day challenges in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment is one of our priorities at Sentara Healthcare. You, as a competent and confident professional, create our culture of caring where patients grow in health, and we in turn invest in your future with the additional hope that you will continue to work with us for years to come. With these intertwined goals in mind, we guide you to grow your nursing skills in the following ways:

Earn a bachelor’s or higher degree in nursing

  • Secure specialty certification
  • Participate in on-site learning programs
  • Plan your future with a career map at Sentara
  • Analyze and perfect our work processes

Preparing for the best outcomes: BSN and certified nurses

We continue to make progress on our BSN goal, which is in line with the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) target of 80 percent of nurses by 2020. At the end of 2017, 60.4 percent of Sentara Healthcare nurses had earned their BSN, and 17.5 percent were under contract to do so. When new nurses are hired, they understand they must earn their degree within five years. To further encourage our staff, we require a bachelor’s degree for more leadership positions.

Goal nearly accomplished

Our soon-to-be combined total of nearly 78 percent shows continuous progress on a hard-to-move metric, something that almost didn’t seem possible when the IOM announced the goal in 2010.

Why does this goal matter? A bachelors-prepared, BSN workforce has shown in studies to correlate to positive patient outcomes.

Ongoing education

Along with offering validation of the knowledge and the skill necessary in a nursing specialty, certifications have been linked to good results for patients. In 2017, 23.2 percent of our nurses held a professional certification — up 1 percent from 2016. Five years ago, only 12 percent of Sentara nurses were certified in a specialty.

We thank our nurse leaders who encouraged their team members to pursue certifications, those who developed partnerships with the certifying agencies to make access easier to the prep materials and tests, and all of the nurses who have taken on the challenge to earn certification.

Smooth transitions into your new career: Nurse Residency Program

At each Sentara hospital, any newly hired nurse who is a new graduate with fewer than 12 months experience is enrolled in a Nurse Residency Program (NRP). Every month, he or she attends a four-hour session with Sentara Healthcare experts to explore quality and safety outcomes, leadership principles and professional development.


Bonding with fellow nurses

The residents share their day-to-day experiences with each other and a facilitator during Tales From The Bedside, a time reserved for reporting the ups and downs of caregiving and on-the-job growth. Many nurses embrace the time as a safe haven to speak openly, not be judged and feel bolstered by their new support system formed in their cohort. Everything on their minds can and should be discussed: stress, not fitting in, struggling to prioritize tasks, knowing when to delegate, communicating effectively with patients and family, and challenges with clinical competency.


Planning the future and researching best practices

Nurse residents create a professional development plan while enrolled in the NRP so that they have ideas on mapping out their career, especially at Sentara Healthcare. Facilitators talk about departments where residents can shadow, leaders they can talk to and further education they can complete.

During the NRP sessions, the nurses also work on an evidence-based practice project with a facilitator in small groups, developing their clinical and critical-thinking skills as they link the projects with the Sentara Nursing Strategic Plan.

They present their results at graduation, and nurse leaders select the top projects. The projects were so impressive last year that we invited five teams to present posters at our Sentara Nurse Leadership Academy held in May. Three groups also submitted abstracts for the national Annual Vizient Nurse Residency Conference in March 2018, and one was accepted.

On-site, advanced skill training: Periop 101

Fewer and fewer nurses are coming to our hospitals with perioperative experience, leaving us in a potentially compromising position: While the average age of nurses is 50 years old, the average age of operating nurses is about 58 — closer to retirement. The higher age, compounded with a strong economy, could lead to our hospitals losing large numbers of hard-to-replace, highly skilled nurses.

Succession planning is only possible if we educate nurses to work in this specialty, one that is not mastered in college. It’s essential to our patients’ safety and our financial stability: Operating rooms can generate 60 to 80 percent of a hospital’s revenue. Fortunately, our Periop 101 internship program can educate 16 interns every quarter, and add more nurses into our operating rooms more quickly.

Intense learning for well-qualified candidates

Our Periop 101 coordinator screens applicants to ensure that they’re looking for a career — and not merely a job. It’s an “all-in” specialty, requiring fast learning, laser focus and self-reliance due to the amount and complexity of the technology involved and, at times, lower nurse staffing. After six weeks of classes with clinical work in the mornings, nurses sit for a national exam. They are then cleared to finish their operating room education with rotations through nine subspecialties.

Planning your future at Sentara: Legacy Mapping Program

Beginning in the winter of 2017-18, nurse leaders added a formal conversation about career planning during each nurse’s annual review. Leaders gauge where you see yourself in the future and determine what doors can be opened at Sentara Healthcare. We know that turnover can be inevitable within departments, and as nurses we move up and move on, yet we’d like to retain as many of our nurses as possible and give you a path at Sentara.

A snapshot of progress: Healthy Work Environment Pie Charts

We’ve created a simple pie chart for nurse executives and nurse leaders to look at the “health” of each unit — not the patients’, but the staff’s. The pie chart includes the unit’s Members of the Team engagement survey score, customer service scores and quality and safety measures. It’s a snapshot of recent successes and opportunities, with strengths colored in green and challenges in yellow and red. At a glance, the leaders and team members are reminded of
areas needing attention to lay the foundation of a productive and pleasant workplace.





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