One hospital network in Connecticut is working to prevent a nursing shortage in the state.
A recent study shows that in less than 10 years, 16 states could see a shortage of nurses. Two of those states are in the northeast.
Since she was seven, Maryalice Cullen dreamed of being a nurse.
“I was the one that would run for the Band-Aids when someone fell on the sidewalk and it was just in my DNA,” Cullen said.
For the last 25 years, Cullen has been living the dream while working at Danbury Hospital. She's risen through the ranks and is now the director of Patient Care Services. But nearly every step of the way, she's had someone to turn to.
“Knowing that other people have done what you're in, when you're in the thick of it, is very helpful,” Cullen said.
Cullen is part of the nurse training program. The program is one where nurses mentor each other throughout their careers. Lisa Smith is Cullen's mentor.
“It does help nurses who may have gotten scared, frustrated, overwhelmed to get through those tough spots,” Smith said.
The perseverance is imperative, especially in light of some staggering stats. A Department of Health and Human Services study shows that by 2025 there will be a shortage of registered nurses throughout the country. It's all a case of supply and demand.
As the baby boomers age, the study shows, the pool of nurses won't be able to meet the sheer amount of their medical needs. European countries are already facing this problem.
Chair for Nursing Education and Research Moreen Donahue saw the writing is on the wall. Donahue said she's developed this program where nurses are teaching nurses.
“We're trying to be proactive in those ways and make sure they feel that they're able to grow, gain skills and new competencies and new opportunities,” Donahue said.
They help each other navigate through all challenges of the job. It's a tough career and some can get burnt out in just the first year.
“It's an extremely difficult transition from being a student to being in charge of somebody's life when they're in the hospital,” Smith said.
First year nurses, all the way to management, can be mentored and they help each other in and out of the hospital, ranging from which specialty to pursue, to how to handle patients, and the emotional impact it leaves behind…to learning new classroom material…even how to juggle family life.
“It enabled me to work full-time, raise three children, go to school and get my Master’s degree,” Cullen said.
The Western Connecticut Health Network's program looks to be working. The health and human services study does not show Connecticut will be lagging.
In fact, it projects the state will have a demand for 41,500 nurses and more than 45,000 will be available. In an aggressive effort to get nurses on the right track at a younger age, the hospital network has partnered up with Henry Abbott Tech to make sure the legacy of compassionate, competent care continues.
“If nurses have opportunity and support, that's what's going to help them stay in the profession of nursing,” Cullen said.
The two New England states projected to see a shortfall are neighboring Rhode Island and Maine. Officials said they do not foresee that problem coming to Connecticut, partly because of mentoring programs like these, but also the quality of nursing schools in the state.
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