Both nurses and health systems benefit from professional development programs

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For their part, nursing students will be expected to work at Mount Sinai for at least two years following their graduation, Ambrosia said. Mount Sinai expects to have 120 members enrolled by the end of 2022.

Nurses at Deaconess Health System in Evansville, Indiana, can pursue professional development in various ways, including presenting at medical conferences, publishing research, performing community service and acquiring advanced degrees or certifications. The system offers tuition reimbursement, loan forgiveness and compensation for nurses reaching various levels of achievement.

The activities keep nurses engaged, expand their abilities and help them grow into leadership roles while advancing the organization as a whole, said Jennifer Chiusano, chief nurse executive at Deaconess.

“It’s not just jumping through hoops,” Chiusano said. “It’s important to nurses right now to feel that they’re making a difference. This is something they feel like they can control.”

“When you interview for a team leader or manager position, and you have a professional development packet, it really speaks to your commitment,” said Sara Goedde, senior human resources adviser and registered nurse with Deaconess. “(Nurses) know that this is a great opportunity for them, and it gives them an extra boost when they’re interviewing for an upper position.”

The pandemic has acted as a major barrier to professional development programs because higher patient volumes often prevent staff from attending courses, said Debra Ridling, associate chief nurse at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The hospital is working to create more opportunities for career advancement for nurses, Ridling said. Presentations of clinical issues and research forums are recorded and available for nurses to watch on demand in order to earn credit and take their certification exams.

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Seattle Children’s also offers a course sponsored by the Association for Nursing Professional Development to prepare practitioners for certification in specialties such as cardiology, oncology, pediatrics or trauma informed care, said Melissa Liu, interim nursing professional development director at the hospital.

HCA Healthcare has its own internal certificate program, in which nurses are supported in transitioning into leadership, said Sammie Mosier, senior vice president and chief nurse executive at HCA Healthcare. Nurses also can take advantage of a free tuition program in partnership with Galen College of Nursing to earn a bachelor’s degree, Mosier said.

Professional development programs are particularly a win for hospitals and healthcare institutions with magnet status, a designation given to centers where nursing leaders align their strategic goals with improving patient outcomes, Deaconess’ Goedde said.

In partnering with universities and supporting student nurses, health systems aim to improve their clinical practice and maintain the 80% threshold of bachelor’s-prepared nurses required to achieve and maintain magnet status, she said.

The Association for Nursing Professional Development works with directors of professional development programs and departments as a resource to ensure nurses receive the proper onboarding and mentoring needed to advance their career, said Sheila StCyr, president of the association.

Guidelines for professional nursing development and graduate programs, including the curriculum content and the competencies nurses are expected to gain, were recently updated by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in 2021, as nursing is becoming more complex and moving from knowledge-based to competency-based education.

“We go into nursing understanding that we will be lifelong learners,” Liu said. “Continuing to grow your skill set makes you more nimble and more flexible in this ever-changing environment.”

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