May 9, 2003

Dubree praises new campaign to retain nurses

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Marilyn Dubree outlined the State of Nursing at Vanderbilt during her presentation Tuesday afternoon in Light Hall. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Dubree praises new campaign to retain nurses

Marilyn Dubree knows the state of nursing at Vanderbilt is better than one year ago. That was the message she delivered Tuesday in Light Hall at the State of Nursing address as part of National Nurses’ Week.

The “Be the Best-Keep the Best” campaign launched last year to highlight recruitment and retention of nurses has brought the number of RN vacancies in the Medical Center down to 74, from 140 in the fall of last year.

“I’m so appreciative to Medical Center recruitment, but also managers and staff who have been able to make sure they have a positive orientation process,” said Dubree, director of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer. She says compared to national statistics, showing 10.2 percent RN vacancies, Vanderbilt is doing “quite well,” with a 7 percent RN vacancy.

Dubree says RN turnover in the first one to two years of employment at Vanderbilt has been a longstanding problem, and although there is a great deal of longevity at Vanderbilt, retaining new hires is an issue. In the past year and a half, much work has gone into making sure new nurses have the support they need from managers, and a program has been initiated to check in with new nurses 30, 60, and 90 days after their hire date.

At the same time, another program to emphasize the importance of retaining nurses began, as part of the Professional Nursing Practice Program.

“It’s a way to increase reward and recognition for nurses who choose to advance while continuing indirect patient care,” Dubree said. She says a ranking system from 1 for new hires, to 3 and 4 for higher levels of RN practice has helped recognize longevity among Vanderbilt nurses.

Other initiatives of the campaign have been successful in creating a more positive work environment. “We are fortunate that Chancellor Gee and the University are very interested in being an employer of choice, and we at the Medical Center are very interested in being an employer of choice as well,” said Dubree.

To help in that effort Vanderbilt hired Margie Gale, M.S.N., a nurse wellness specialist, to connect nurses with resources when life is challenging. She works as a member of the Quality of Work Life Task Force, and a member of the Nurse Wellness Task Force. “We’re trying to create an environment with what resources we have available to us and what’s positive around us, so as we go about our work we can say ‘this is a place that really takes care of its staff and nurses,’ so we can take care of our patients,” Dubree said.

Other new programs include monthly “Breakfasts with Marilyn,” a time for invited guests in the nursing community to chat with Dubree in a more intimate setting. Dubree has created the e-mail address, to hear concerns and complaints, as well as praise and positive feedback about nursing issues at Vanderbilt.

Dubree recognized the 44 RN’s who have advanced to 3 or 4 with the Rosamund Gabrielson Staff Nursing Award.

Dr. Roger Johnson, chief resident, was given the Friend of Nursing Award, chosen by nurses he works with to honor a non-nurse who is a strong advocator for nurses, nursing, and patient care.

The Nursing Leadership Award, for excellence in developing people, building relationships, leading, planning and decision making was given to Julie Foss, M.S.N., who works in the MICU.

Dubree closed the evening by applauding the efforts of the more than 2,500 nurses at Vanderbilt. “I continue to be inspired by the work we do every day. But we’re not done. If we can anchor and secure the good work that has occurred… if we set our minds to it, we can do it.”