April 25, 2003

Nurses head back to college for new RN refresher course

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Barb Cramer is the director of Video News Services at VUMC.

Nurses head back to college for new RN refresher course

Hospitals and clinics across the nation are struggling to cope with a shortage of nurses, caused in part by an aging nursing population and low numbers of young people joining the profession.

But at Vanderbilt, the School of Nursing and the Medical Center are looking for new ways to tackle the problem, by creating an RN refresher course to help nurses who choose to come back to the profession after being out of practice.

The course is designed for people looking to reactivate their nursing license, people who haven’t worked as a nurse for five years or more, or those who have been out of the clinical setting and need the refresher course.

Ginny Moore, M.S.N., continuing education coordinator, organized the course after being approached by VUMC.

“We were asked to develop this course by the hospital because of the large number of calls they were receiving from nurses that wanted to get back into nursing, who knew they needed to take a refresher course but hadn’t been able to find anything anywhere around. So this met a need for a lot of people,” said Moore.

She says this is a great time to rejoin the nursing workforce. “Because nurses are needed so badly I think that they have a lot more negotiating power in being able to say, ‘Look, these are the days I can work, these are the hours I can work,’ and being able to get that.”

Moore says a lot of the course participants who want to come back to nursing are just looking for part-time positions. “Most are looking to combine nursing with whatever they are still doing. A lot of people we see were in jobs that have been downsized,” Moore said.

Carolyn Larson, 49, of Jackson, Tenn., was a surgical OB/GYN nurse before her two children were born, 18 years ago. Now that her children are grown and gone from the house, she’s ready to return to the nursing workforce and has signed on for the next RN refresher course offered at VUSN.

“My license is active because I’ve been doing some paperwork nursing, but I know some things will be completely new. I’m sure a lot of equipment has changed, like IVs,” Larson said.

Larson says she’s already landed a job working in VUMC’s 10 South, with the step-down unit for kidney transplant patients. “I’m excited. I want to feel like a real nurse again,” said Larson. And she soon will. Larson says her schedule will be three 12-hour shifts and four days off.

Becky Keck, M.S.N., assistant hospital director for nursing finance and operations, says Larson is one of two students from the RN refresher course who have been hired by the Medical Center. “If we run the course a couple of times a year and get one to two hires out of the course, it’s beneficial to us. It’s a good example of the partnership between the nursing school and the hospital, and is one more way to help us with recruitment,” said Keck.

The refresher course lasts two weeks. In the first week, students spend each day focusing on a different body system. They spend the morning in lectures, and the afternoon working in the lab. The second week is spent shadowing a nurse in various departments in the Medical Center.

“If they are taking the course to reactivate a lapsed or inactive nursing license, they have to take both weeks. Some people, though, have just been out of nursing for a little while and just want to take the first week of it,” Moore said.

Moore says the students she’s seen have similar concerns. “For most of them it probably has to do with the acuity level of the patients that they’ll see in the hospital. When most of them went to school or worked in the hospital people just weren’t as sick as they are now. And often times they don’t realize just how much that has changed until the second week when they are actually in the hospital,” Moore said.

The next course begins on Monday, April 28 and is already full. However, the course will be offered again July 7-11 for the didactic portion of the course, and July 12-13, and 19-20 for the clinical sessions. The cost is $500 for the didactic week and $500 for the clinical portion. If hired by VUMC, the cost of tuition is reimbursed.

To register for the course call 343-3294.