By Tracey Boyd
PISCATAWAY — One statistic helped Linda Hassler, MS, RN, GCNS-BC, FNGNA, determine that the inaugural class of the New Jersey Action Coalition’s Long-Term Care Nurse Residency Program made a big impact.
“We began with 15 long-term care facilities participating and finished with 12,” said Hassler, a clinical associate professor at Rutgers University’s School of Nursing. “If you look at the national average for retention for nurses in long-term care, it’s about 49.5%. We retained about 80%. That’s a major success.”
Hassler, who is a project director for the NJAC’s Future of Nursing for the Health of Our State initiative, was part of a graduation ceremony in April for the inaugural group at Rutgers’ Piscataway campus.
The long-term care program paired nurse residents with a preceptor for a year-long learning experience.
Edna Cadmus, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, the NJAC’s co-leader, and Susan Salmond, EdD, RN, ANEF, FAAN, co-chairwoman of NJAC’s education pillar, developed the project, which received $1.6 million in funding over three years. Cadmus is clinical professor and specialty director, nursing leadership program, Rutgers School of Nursing, and Salmond serves as executive vice dean and professor at Rutgers.
“You have entered long-term care nursing in this state, in this program, at a wonderful time,” said commencement speaker Alison Gibson, MPA, BSN, RN, assistant commissioner of New Jersey’s Division of Health Facilities Survey and Field Operations. “Take everything you know and put it into this.”
The second cohort of the program is underway with 23 long-term care facilities participating, according to Hassler.
Gibson commended the program’s preceptors, saying, “You always remember that one special patient, but it’s equally important that you look back at the nurses you’ve taught and say, ‘I helped him or her become a great nurse.’ That’s your legacy.”
Gibson and her staff of mostly RNs work with individual long-term care facilities and industry groups, such as the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, to ensure nursing homes adhere to federal and state guidelines. When infractions are found, Gibson said civil penalties are imposed. Those fines come back to the state and are used to fund initiatives for certified long-term care facilities.
“This is where funding for the Long-Term Care Nurse Residency Program came from,” Gibson said.
Other speakers included nurse resident Christie Lintner, RN, GRN, CDP, of AristaCare at Cherry Hill and preceptor Donna McAllister, BSN, RN, GRN, CDP, of Job Haines Home, Bloomfield, who shared their experiences.
“The program far exceeded my expectations,” Lintner said. “Our preceptors guided us through our research projects and through certification.”
McAllister thanked Cadmus and Salmond for having a dream and putting it into place.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” said McAllister, who explained that after her employer, Barnert Hospital in Paterson, N.J., closed in 2007, she found herself out of work. She knew there would be a lot of competition for hospital jobs because of the many nurses affected by the closure. She hadn’t thought about a career in long-term care before, but decided to give it a try.
The NJAC program, she said, provided a fresh look at her field.
“It has changed my perspective of working in a nursing home.” she said. “I take pride in working in a long-term care environment.”
Along with Hassler, Katherine Kuren Black, MSN, RN, and Nancy Bohnarczyk, MA, RN, CNE, both clinical assistant professors at Rutgers School of Nursing, served as faculty members to each resident. Black and Bohnarczyk presented awards and graduation certificates to preceptors and residents.
In addition to gaining valuable long-term care experience, each of the participants earned geriatric resource nurse certification and dementia practitioner certification while in the program. An added bonus, Hassler said, is fostering a collective of nurses who can rely on each other for support and continued guidance.
“We’ve built a really nice community of nurses who can call one another for help,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of new nurses in long-term care. so that’s something they didn’t have before.”
Tracey Boyd is a regional reporter.
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