An innovative nurse-retention program of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) Foundation, a Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future (PIN) program partner, earned a statewide award in December. “Nursing for Life: The RN Career Transition Program,” a joint initiative of the BCBSM Foundation and the Michigan State University College of Nursing, is designed to improve the retention rates of experienced nurses by offering them new nursing career opportunities. The program earned the “Building Michigan's Healthcare Workforce Award,” presented annually by the Michigan Health Council to health care organizations and educators in the state that are designing and implementing creative approaches to recruiting and retaining a skilled and diverse health care workforce.
The PIN program is the product of a unique partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF). It funds local and regional charitable foundations and other funders as they invest in tailored solutions to nursing workforce problems in their communities and states. The grants are intended as seed money, with the twin goal of achieving positive outcomes during the two-year life of the grant, and building stronger partnerships at the local and state levels so that the organizations can continue their work beyond the life of the grant.
Developed with a PIN grant, the Nursing for Life program focuses on experienced nurses who are planning to leave or retire from the profession. Mindful that the physical demands of nursing often drive older nurses out of the field, the program seeks to extend careers by transitioning experienced nurses to roles in community-based settings, including ambulatory care, home care, hospice and palliative and long term care.
The Michigan Center for Nursing estimates that the state faces a statewide shortfall of 8,000 nurses by 2018, much of it driven by retirements. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s nurses are between 45 and 64 years old, and an unhappy byproduct of economic recovery is that many of these nurses are expected to retire when unemployment goes down and family income up.
As part of the program, the Michigan State University College of Nursing offers an online course, “RN Career Transition: Nursing for Life Program,” that covers the core competencies nurses need to practice in new settings. It includes online theory modules followed by a precepted clinical practicum in the participants' home communities. The online modules cover both core nursing and specialty nursing topics for each of the identified practice areas. This allows nurses to build on their significant experiences by learning the most current evidence-based information on technology, disease and care management, and nursing practice issues specific to non-acute settings. The modules are self-paced, in deference to the time demands of working nurses.
"Nurses are critical to quality health care, and we are pleased to support efforts that help retain an adequate and skilled nurse workforce in our communities," said Ira Strumwasser, executive director and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation in acknowledging the award. "We need these valuable health care professionals to ensure and maintain a healthy Michigan."
Twenty-eight nurses successfully completed the pilot program in 2009, and many have successfully transitioned to new health care settings. Fifteen nurses are currently enrolled in the program.