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Arkansas hospital launches program to retain nurses amid COVID-19 pandemic

The shortage of nurses hasn't let up in Arkansas and hospitals feel the burn amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

BENTON, Ark. — The shortage of nurses hasn't let up in Arkansas and hospitals feel the burn amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Governor tried to help by fast-tracking new nurses straight out of school.

But hospitals say hiring them then keeping them is the real challenge.

Saline Memorial Hospital has just launched a first-of-its-kind program in the state in hopes to retain nurses.

“It's a sink or swim situation if I were to go from the graduation stage right onto the floor,” said Rhose Wainwright, a new grad.

Wainwright is a registered nurse at Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton.

She’s taking part in a newly launched mentor program in partnership with TruMont designed for new nurses like herself.

So far, she's steadily transitioning from textbook to bedside, but she said without the program, she may have not survived the healthcare field.

"I can almost guarantee you I would have sank,” said Wainwright.

It's a struggle statewide keeping nurses after they are hired because the job can be overwhelming.

Amy Harris is a preceptor at Saline Memorial.

She's taking new nurses under her wings like Wainwright.

She helps new grads learn to work and continue to learn at their own pace with a mentor by their side.

"What this will do is take these nurses who come out of school and think it's going to be one thing and then find out it's different and instead of saying, 'I think I've made the wrong decision' or 'I can't do this,' it's going to give them the power to say, 'ok, this is new for me I have help, I have tools, I have a leader to teach me,'” said Harris.

Nurses in this program will focus on newly learned skills and get a more in-depth training process than in years past.

The program requires 2,000 working hours before completion, so the hospital hopes this learning process will help retain the nurses coming through their doors.  

"It's going to keep people in the door, keep people here, it’s going to teach them when you dedicate yourself and time to something that that will pay off,” said Harris.

This program is being offered at Saline Memorial Hospital for nursing school seniors, new grads, and nurses with two years or less of experience.