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Nationwide Nursing Shortage Spotlights Need for Retention Programs

-- Median Turnover Rate of 27.1 Percent for First-Year Nurses Jeopardizes Quality of Patient Care

-- UHC/AACN Nurse Residency Program(TM) Reduces Turnover Rate to Almost One-Fifth the National Average

-- Retention Efforts Save Houston Hospital More Than $700,000

OAK BROOK, Ill., April 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The recent health care summit at the White House spotlighted the nursing shortage, which threatens the quality of patient care throughout the nation's hospitals. Nearly 80 percent of registered nurses believe the shortage has a major impact on their ability to provide high-quality care, according to a recent study by nursing shortage expert Dr. Peter Buerhaus.

The University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC), an alliance of 103 academic medical centers and 210 of their affiliated hospitals, supports the Obama administration's call to action by imploring all hospitals to focus on nursing staff retention, especially during the economic downturn.

According to the latest projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million new and replacement nurses will be needed by 2016. For new nurses entering the profession, turnover is a major issue. In fact, the median voluntary turnover rate for first-year nurses is 27.1 percent, according to a July 2007 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute.

To address first-year nurse turnover, UHC worked in conjunction with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) to develop the UHC/AACN Nurse Residency Program(TM), which offers a curriculum and support for new graduate nurses. This one-year program provides first-year nurses with tools to adjust to the high pressures of working as a hospital nurse and has shown remarkable success in nurse retention.

"First-year nurses often have a difficult transition into practice after graduation because of heavy case loads and patients who require more complicated care," said Cathy Krsek, RN, MSN, MBA, director of the UHC/AACN Nurse Residency Program(TM) and a registered nurse for more than 35 years. "The Nurse Residency Program helps first-year nurses adjust to the complex hospital environment and improves retention. As a result, patient care is not compromised, and hospitals save money on turnover costs."

Nearly 14,000 nurses have participated in the UHC/AACN Nurse Residency Program(TM) since its inception in 2002, and the average turnover rate for program participants has dropped to 5.6 percent--almost one-fifth the national average.

"Like other health professionals, registered nurses benefit greatly from having a support structure to help them transition from college to the real world," said Polly Bednash, PhD, RN, FAAN, AACN's CEO and executive director. "New graduate nurses who complete the Nurse Residency Program demonstrate significant reductions in stress levels and improvements in organizational, prioritization, communication, and leadership skills."

At University of Wisconsin Hospital & Clinics, the new graduate turnover rate for nurses was 34 percent in 1999. After the organization joined the UHC/AACN Nurse Residency Program(TM), that turnover rate dropped to 10.8 percent in the first year and 6.8 percent in the second year.

In addition to reducing the turnover rate, the UHC/AACN Nurse Residency Program(TM) helps hospitals save money. The estimated cost to replace just one new graduate nurse is $88,000, as reported in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Nursing Administration. Health care organizations spend an estimated $300,000 a year for every one percent increase in turnover, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute report.

The Methodist Hospital System in Houston calculated financial benefits of more than $700,000 based on its participation in the UHC/AACN Nurse Residency Program(TM) and the subsequent decline in its nurse turnover rate.

"As the government and the health care provider industry look to improve the quality of care for patients, taking care of our nurses should be a top priority," said Krsek. "As more hospitals adopt the Nurse Residency Program, more nurses will be helped, which in turn will have a positive impact on the nation's quality of patient care."

About UHC

Formed in 1984, UHC is an alliance of 103 academic medical centers and 210 of their affiliated hospitals, representing approximately 90 percent of the nation's nonprofit academic medical centers. UHC provides specific programs and services to help members improve clinical, operational, financial, and supply chain performance. Offering members the UHC Patient Safety Net(R) event-reporting tool, UHC is among the first 10 organizations designated as Patient Safety Organizations by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Visit "About UHC" at for more information.

About AACN

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for baccalaureate and graduate programs in nursing. Representing 640 member schools of nursing nationwide, AACN's educational, research, government advocacy, data collection, publications, and special initiatives work to establish quality standards for nursing education, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of nursing education, research, and practice. Web:

SOURCE University HealthSystem Consortium
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