July 15, 2005

Program helps nurses learn children’s needs

Featured Image

Melissa Taylor, right, is all smiles as she receives her diploma and Children's Hospital cap from Sherry Stringfellow during the Pediatric Nurse Residency program graduation ceremony.
photo by Dana Johnson

Program helps nurses learn children’s needs

Before most nurses begin working at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt they must first complete up to five months in the Pediatric Nurse Residency Program (PNR). Twenty-five nurses from the Spring 2005 PNR class recently graduated from the program, which transitions new nursing school graduates and adult care nurses to be caregivers for children.

At the graduation ceremony recently, Arnold W. Strauss, M.D., medical director of Children's Hospital, and Jim Shmerling, executive director and chief executive officer, addressed the graduating residents.

“Try to remember,” Strauss said, “you are a miracle maker every day, and the families are giving you their most precious person to take care of.”

PNR Tami Bobo was awarded the Spirit Award, voted on by PNRs and given to the person who best embodies the enthusiasm and spirit of nursing. She will join the sixth-floor acute care unit.

In the graduation program booklet, Bobo wrote that she chose to join the sixth floor “because I felt the calling to work with this population — the kids are the best! When doing PNR rotations, I got to experience the great staff that is uplifting, compassionate and works as a team.”

Also honored: Katie Piece Preceptor Award — Lynn Graham, R.N., who works in the NICU; and Mentor Award — Cheri Halaparda, R.N., who works on the seventh-floor acute care unit.

The ceremony adjourned with Raye Nell Dyer, Children's Hospital chaplain and director of Pastoral Care, blessing the hands of each new pediatric nurse.

The PNR program began at the Children's Hospital in 2002 and has trained 209 pediatric nurses to date. It was created to help nurses better prepare for a career in pediatrics, because nursing schools are typically centered around adult care, said Debbie Arnow, R.N., director of nursing education and professional development at Children's Hospital.

“The knowledge of new nurses varies so much, and sometimes they don't get off to a good start,” Arnow said. “Pediatrics is more of a specialty, and nurses need to know how take care of children.”

Several other hospitals around the country offer pediatric nurse internships and residencies for new staff, but Children's Hospital's program offers something different. Children's Hospital PNRs get exposure to every area of care — the NICU, PCCU, Pediatric Emergency Department and two areas of Acute Care — in the first 10 weeks of training before deciding which area of care they would like to work in.

“This program doesn't ask them to choose a nursing unit before getting experience in all areas,” Arnow said. “This gives them the information to make a better decision.”

After the 10 weeks of clinical rotations, the residents begin a more intensive phase after being “drafted” to their area of choice.

“In some areas, like the ED and critical care areas, the technology is more difficult, requiring more training,” Arnow said.

The residents will spend up to 12 weeks in their new areas before completing the program.

Arnow feels this program has already begun to improve retention among pediatric nurses. In the past, there has been a 35 percent turnover after the first year, and that number has nearly been cut in half to 18 percent.

“It's a stressful job, and nurses need to know what they are getting into,” Arnow said. “What makes me feel good about this program is seeing that these nurses are happy with their careers. We give them a really positive start and we hope they will carry that with them throughout their career.”

The next class of PNRs is the most diverse yet. On July 11, a new group of 50 nurses began learning how to provide the best care to sick children at Children's Hospital. One hundred and fifty-eight applicants applied for the 50 open slots from as far away as Nevada and Colorado.