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Tables and booths representing 18 different areas of care were lined up Nov. 13 along the Education II Building’s ground floor, concourse for the Meet the Leaders event. Image by Bryan Clifton
Image by Bryan Clifton
Nov. 20, 2023 | By putting UAMS nursing students who will graduate in 2024 together with the leaders who manage patient units hiring nurses, the organizers of the “Meet the Leaders” event on Nov. 13 hope to save time for both groups.
Tables and booths representing 18 different areas of care from Labor & Delivery to the Emergency Department and Perioperative Services were lined up along the Education II Building’s ground floor, concourse. During the two-hour event, a total of 65 students in the class of 2024, 72% of prospective graduates, circulated among the areas and visited with hiring managers, clinical specialists and nurses from UAMS.
“We’ve struggled with recruiting nursing students since the pandemic,” said Rebekah Thacker, RN, MNSc. “We’ve been trying to think of creative ways to recruit and hire upcoming graduates from the College of Nursing.”
Rebekah Thacker, left, and a coworker stop by the photo booth at the Meet the Leaders event. Image by Bryan Clifton
Thacker is the director of the UAMS Center for Nursing Excellence, which organized the “Meet the Leaders” event.
“Patient safety and quality of care is a top priority at UAMS. Key to maintaining safety and excellence in patient care is keeping the nurse-to-patient ratio low. Other health care providers have sometimes exceeded the recommended ratios to stretch nursing staff over more patients,” Thacker said.
“Despite our financial challenges, UAMS has maintained the recommended ratios for patient care,” she said. “Across the nation, nurse recruitment is challenging right now. Some smaller hospitals are even closing services. The nursing shortage impacts statewide health. We are trying to care for all Arkansans. Nursing staff is vital to that. “We’re also trying to recruit experienced nurses as well.”
Students are busy, and nursing managers are working very hard, too, Thacker said. Neither has much time in the average day for individual interviews with managers or managers with the students. By putting most of both groups of in one place for two hours, the exposure of one to the other could be maximized with efficiency.
At check in, students were given cards to collect signatures from area representatives at each table. If the student obtained a minimum of five signatures, they qualified to be entered to win a door prize drawing.
On the patient care side, units and departments competed for votes as to which had the best table. Labor & Delivery was the winner, earning the nurses and team a $5 care coins for spending at UAMS food outlets.
“We told managers this is a time to sell your unit,” Thacker said. “This is a time to convince the new graduates that your unit is the best place to practice nursing, and with the best patient populations. “We asked them to go all out on their tables and decorations.”
A number of the units had recent new graduates on site to share their perspectives on the residency program and how their nursing teams had supported their growth and development during their first year, Tammy King-Jones, Ph.D., RN, said.
Tammy Jones, left, interim chief nursing officer, stops to visit with College of Nursing Dean Patricia Cowan, both of whom attended Meet the Leaders.
Jones is the UAMS vice chancellor for clinical operations and the interim chief nursing officer.
“Hearing these new nurses sharing their stories was fun to hear as the interim CNO, but more importantly they provided meaningful and relatable insight for the nursing students,” Jones said. “The playful competition among the units for best table seemed to make the nursing students feel special and wanted as part of the UAMS team, which after all, was the ultimate goal.”
Several units brought examples of the equipment they use in caring for patients as well as study materials for students to use when preparing for their certification exams.
“Our leadership team had just as much fun as the students,” said Susan Erickson, MNSc, RN, UAMS senior nurse recruiter. “Taking two hours out of our busy day to celebrate our students, to celebrate our nurses and to share what we have to offer. It was a win-win for the leadership team and the students at the college of nursing!”