May 10, 2002

VUMC works to retain quality nurses: Dubree

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Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree outlined the trends and future of nursing this week at the State of Nursing address in Light Hall. (photo by Dana Johnson)

VUMC works to retain quality nurses: Dubree

Citing the need to attract and retain an excellent nursing staff, Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree, RN, MSN, stressed the importance of job satisfaction at Vanderbilt in her State of Nursing Address on Tuesday, one of the highlights of Nurses Week, May 6-13 at Vanderbilt. Dubree delivered the address twice on Tuesday in Light Hall.

Based on a job satisfaction survey in 2001, nurses were positive about the working atmosphere at Vanderbilt — a trend echoed by all job categories at VUMC.

The survey showed that nurses were mostly concerned with compensation and benefits, quality of work life, career development and training, and management development.

“Quality of work life is incredibly important for people,” Dubree said. “This includes stress, a safe working environment, a manageable work load, and balancing professional with personal lives.

“You bring a well of resources to your work. If this well is depleted, it is detrimental to you and your family.”

To gather feedback from nurses and managers at Vanderbilt, focus groups were conducted in December and February to learn ways to retain nurses. From the one-on-one sessions and group discussions, they heard how intimidating VUMC could be for new hires. Many new nurses felt overwhelmed during the first few months of employment. Managers were concerned about losing nurses within the first one to two years.

According to Dubree, during the last quarter of 2001, 60 nurses left Vanderbilt. Of those 60, 40 percent had been working here less than two years. “This is a national trend, but one we must address,” Dubree said.

Vanderbilt hired more than 300 nurses last year. However, Dubree cautioned, “Hiring only works if we keep those nurses.”

Even though Vanderbilt did overwhelm some new hires, many called the working environment exciting. Focus group participants told how proud they were to be working at VUMC; how they felt respected by peers and by physicians; and that there was a good RN/patient ratio at the hospital.

“Every day I am proud to be associated with nursing at Vanderbilt,” Dubree said.

These positive attributes of VUMC are directly affecting recruitment, Dubree said. Forty-five percent of all Vanderbilt hires come from referrals. “In spite of parking, in spite of other challenges, we are going into the community and telling people ‘come to Vanderbilt. It’s a great place to work.’ We have 2,000 people out there recruiting. That’s great.”

Dubree offered four ways to becoming the employer of choice for nurses.

• Vanderbilt has to select the right people by offering relocation support, peer hiring, preceptor programs, and re-entry into practice programs.

• After the right people are hired, this group must be given growth opportunities. This will be accomplished through quarterly nursing grand rounds, unit educators, mentoring programs, and the Vanderbilt Professional Nursing Practice Program, an evaluation and career advancement procedure currently in place at VUMC.

• Nurses must be offered a quality of work life —support accomplished through nurse wellness programs, tuition benefits, reward programs, and flexible staffing options.

• The goal of shared governance through leadership development and support, and access and visibility of nursing leaders.

All of these plans are targeted to support Vanderbilt in achieving magnet hospital status — a system developed in 1989 by the American Nursing Association to identify hospitals and hospital systems with excellent nursing practice environments.

“There are currently no magnet hospitals designated in Tennessee,” Dubree said. “I want us to be that hospital. I believe Vanderbilt is that kind of place.”