New Program Combats Competitive Nursing Workforce
It’s no secret that Maine has a nursing shortage. This challenge demands creativity in approach to recruiting and retaining nurses into our system—that’s where Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Work to Grow program comes in.
Work to Grow was developed to directly address the need for additional nurses. The program offers high-performing students the unique opportunity to be sponsored through the final two years of a nursing program. In exchange, these nurses commit to working for five years at Northern Light EMMC post receipt of their nursing degree and license to practice (NCLEX).
Work to Grow students meet as a cohort with the chief nursing officer and the vice president of Human Resources on a bi-monthly basis and are assigned a nursing leader mentor to improve the likelihood of success. Sponsored students will work for the medical center in clinical support roles, such as patient observer or certified nursing assistant, for 16 hours each week during their academic year and 40 hours when school is not in session. The sponsored student is paid full time wages and benefits throughout the two years, allowing them to focus on completing their degree. The sponsored student’s tuition is paid for in full for the duration of the program.
“The program is designed to promote employee engagement as it allows current staff to develop into nurses who may have otherwise been financially unable to achieve this degree,” says Ali Worster, Esq., vice president of Human Resources at Northern Light EMMC. She adds, “It is also designed to promote employees and community members who have already placed roots in this community to become nurses, which increases the likelihood of long term retention.”
The reception of the program by the staff and community has been phenomenal, with 72 internal applicants and 68 external applicants. The field of exceptionally qualified and engaged applicants was narrowed to six for the first cohort with the intent to add another six to 10 in the fall. The program will add 20-30 new students into the program each semester to combat the aging workforce and competitive nursing demands.
The cost of the program ranges depending on school and position of the sponsored student. However, the rough estimate is $50,000 per student, which is underwritten with a promissory note. Compared to the average recruitment and subsequent student loan repayment under our policies, this program may represent a cost savings to bring on new graduating nurses.
“It’s exciting to have 125 applicants that are currently, or want to, pursue a career in nursing,” remarks Sarah Joy, SHRM-SCP, clinical talent acquisition specialist. “We have made strong efforts to encourage external applicants to consider other positions at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, and internal applicants to take advantage of already available support programs such as tuition reimbursement, seasonal employment, and other scholarship opportunities.”