New nurses

Norton Academy introduces students to nursing

Photo of Sheila Lowery, BSN, R.N., left, works with Jeffersonville High School students
Sheila Lowery, BSN, R.N., left, works with Jeffersonville High School students

Ever since she was a little girl, Amy Steinmetz dreamed of becoming a nurse. A 2017 graduate of Jeffersonville High School, she admits she didn’t truly understand what that meant until she took part in Norton Academy during her junior and senior years.

“It was very eye-opening,” she said. “It gives you a chance to decide whether or not health care is something you want to do.”

Norton Academy is a partnership of Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing and this Southern Indiana high school. The program is designed to expose youth, primarily those who are academically at risk, to the knowledge, skills and critical thinking required in nursing and other health care careers through both classroom and clinical education.

How it works
Based at Jeffersonville High School, Norton Academy classes are led by Sheila Lowery, BSN, R.N., clinical educator, Norton Clinical Agency. According to Lowery, many of her students would have limited career opportunities without the program.

“It’s so wonderful to see these kids flourish,” Lowery said.

Of the nearly 100 students who apply for the academy each year, about half are selected. Juniors develop a foundational knowledge of the health care industry through classroom learning, earning a total of six college credit hours for the classes “Introduction to Health Careers” and “Medical Terminology.”

Seniors continue learning life skills, including college preparation and time management, and also receive clinical education through hands-on training at a long-term care facility. They earn Kentucky certification as nursing aides, as well as certifications in CPR, automated external defibrillator use, and dementia care through the Alzheimer’s Association. Students also earn five hours of college credit toward Indiana certified nursing aide preparation.

Developing tomorrow’s nurses
The program launched in the 2009-2010 school year and has graduated a total of 228 students. About 100 of them have gone on to study nursing or other health care disciplines in college.

Steinmetz is one of them. She is majoring in nursing with minors in business administration and psychology at the University of Indianapolis. For her, Norton Academy confirmed her lifelong aspiration.

“Going through clinicals really showed me this is what I want to do,” Steinmetz said.

She adds that the classes she took, especially medical terminology, helped her become a more independent learner and made it easier for her to grasp material at the college level in prerequisite classes such as anatomy and physiology.

Connections she made through Norton Academy also opened up new opportunities for Steinmetz, including her job as a patient care associate at Norton Audubon Hospital. Overall, her experience has been invaluable to securing her future in nursing.

“If you’re unsure about a career in health care, or even if you think you know it’s what you want to do, I would highly recommend the program,” Steinmetz said. “Rather than spending your whole first year of college — and all that money — figuring out if that’s what you want to do, Norton gives you the opportunity to try it while you are still in high school. It’s a great overview of what is going to be expected of you.”

Innovative support for first-year nurses 

Photo of Jerica Riley, R.N., left, and Courtney Ellis, R.N., serve in the Labor and Delivery Unit at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital
Jerica Riley, R.N., left, and Courtney Ellis, R.N., serve in the Labor and Delivery Unit at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital

Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing has developed a pathway from student to experienced nurse that supports nurses during every phase of their career journeys. One essential step on that pathway is the Nurse Residency Program, which nurtures new graduates during their first year on the job.

“Nurse residency programs are also called ‘transition to practice,’ and that’s exactly what this program offers,” said Julie Wolford, MSN, R.N., director, Patient Care Operations. “You can’t be completely prepared for practice just from what you learn in school. This really bridges the gap.”

Norton Healthcare started a residency program in 2016, but the focus was on peer networking and soft skills, such as communication and managing workload. The program was converted into a clinical residency that includes developing those skills but adds mentorship and training in medical/surgical, emergency services, women’s services, surgical services, critical care and pediatrics.

How it works
Three yearlong cohorts begin each March, July and October. Each resident must complete 12 monthly workshops and an evidence-based practice project. The program has grown each year, with 600 residents expected in 2018, up from 250 in 2016. Many of those will be hired directly from Norton Healthcare’s Student Nurse Apprenticeship Program (SNAP), the first step on Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing’s career pathway.

Each workshop covers either a clinical or soft skill, and participants debrief with system and hospital residency teams and their co-workers.

“You’re building a support network with your peers, experienced nurses and other Norton staff,” Wolford said.

Opportunities for innovation
The program’s evidence-based project requirement offers residents a chance to identify challenges or unmet needs on their unit and develop a creative solution.

For their residency project, Courtney Ellis, R.N., and Jerica Riley, R.N., labor and delivery nurses at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, developed a cooling crib that allows stillborn babies to stay in the hospital room with their parents longer, helping to ease the grieving process. Similar devices on the market cost $4,000. Ellis wanted to find a more cost-effective solution.

She was inspired by technology used during her mother’s knee replacement surgery. The physicians employed a cold compression therapy machine to prevent swelling during the operation. Ellis believed she could apply this technology to a crib, so she purchased a similar machine and collaborated with several hospital departments, including Pathology, Engineering and Environmental Services, to develop the new crib and ensure its effectiveness.

Ellis said Norton Healthcare’s residency program gave her an opportunity to think outside the box.

“Thanks to the support I received at Norton, it all just came together. I don’t think other residency programs would have allowed me to do this,” she said.

Wolford said the Nurse Residency Program is designed to encourage new nurses like Ellis and Riley to become champions for their units, increasing employee engagement and improving patient outcomes.

Ellis agreed. “It not only benefits nurses, it benefits patients as well,” she said.

Norton Healthcare launches first nursing apprenticeship program in U.S. 

Photo of Brenda Adcock, R.N., left, guides Alanie Bauer, nurse apprentice
Brenda Adcock, R.N., left, guides Alanie Bauer, nurse apprentice

Easing the transition from the classroom to practice — that’s the goal of Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing’s Student Nurse Apprenticeship Program (SNAP). It is the first nursing apprenticeship program in the United States.

The three-tier program focuses on three keys aspects of nursing. Tier I, Nurse Explorer, consists of classes, training and shadowing experiences. Tier II, Nurse Extern, exposes students to hands-on clinical work on the hospital unit. Tier III, Nurse Apprentice, is focused on building confidence, and offers a hybrid of clinical work, classroom education and training.

Norton Healthcare previously offered a summer extern program before launching SNAP in fall 2016. Program leader Brittany Burke, MSN, RNC-OB, nurse manager, decided to change the summer-only concept by extending the opportunity to either 12 or 18 months, depending on a student’s graduation date. The first cohort started their paid apprenticeships in January 2017, with 26 graduating in December. Another 88 will graduate in spring 2018. All have been offered registered nurse positions with Norton Healthcare. The second cohort of 141 student nurses started in January 2018.

Building the program
Burke said when she was developing SNAP, she drew on her own 10-plus years in nursing practice and education, along with feedback she gathered from new graduate nurses. She held focus groups with students and met with Norton Healthcare leadership, all in an effort to create a comprehensive program that meets both student and organizational needs.

The feedback she received revealed the need for mentorship from experienced nurses and opportunities to apply classroom learning at the bedside in a timely manner, both of which are now offered through SNAP.

“Our goal is to take student nurses where they are and help them grow,” Burke said. “We also want to complement the academic setting and not compete with it.”

Student nurses are invited to apply from all of the region’s accredited nursing schools. Enrollment begins in the spring semester of junior year for students on the bachelor’s degree track or after completion of one term in an associate degree program. Students are placed at one of Norton Healthcare’s five hospitals or at Norton Cancer Institute, matching the system’s needs with student requests.

Prepping for practice
Alanie Bauer is a senior at Spalding University School of Nursing. She is part of SNAP’s first cohort and will graduate in May 2018. She says SNAP has helped her become confident in her own abilities and comfortable with patient care. SNAP also is teaching her how to work on a team and effectively manage her time and workload.

“I would not be ready for my next step without the program,” she said.

Bauer said that her shadowing experience helped her determine where she wanted to work as a new graduate nurse — on the medical/surgical floor at Norton Brownsboro Hospital — and the job readiness training she received through SNAP gave her an advantage when she interviewed.

Burke said Bauer is a perfect example of what SNAP was designed to do — serve as the first step on the pathway to a successful nursing career.

“Hands-on learning mixed with classroom education is what makes students in the program excel,” she said.

SNAPshot of cohort 1
130 student nurses were accepted into SNAP for 2017 to 2018.

  • 126 nurse explorers completed Tier I.
  • 126 nurse externs completed Tier II.
  • 114 nurse apprentices completed or are in the process of completing Tier III.

In December 2017, 26 SNAP nurse apprentices each completed 330 program hours. All were offered and accepted registered nurse positions with Norton Healthcare.

They represent:

  • 5 accredited nursing programs
  • 5 associate degrees in nursing
  • 21 bachelor’s degrees in nursing

New graduate nurses who have completed SNAP are expected to be ready for licensed practice two to six weeks earlier than the benchmark for nursing orientation (depending on the specialty).

Projected for May 2018, 88 SNAP nurse apprentices are each on track to complete 390 program hours. All were offered registered nurse positions with Norton Healthcare and currently are confirming acceptance.

They represent:

  • 9 accredited nursing programs
  • 10 associate degrees in nursing
  • 77 bachelor’s degrees in nursing

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