Developing a new generation of healthcare workers

Workforce development planning is a necessity in today’s rapidly changing healthcare landscape. According to an estimate from the world health organization* there is a need-based shortage of healthcare workers of about 17.5 million workers globally. The aging population, coupled with high demand for healthcare services is forcing hospitals to use new ways of developing and retaining skilled healthcare workers.

One of the strategies to help ensure skilled healthcare workers are available in SE Iowa, is the preceptor program at Ottumwa Regional Health Center (ORHC). This program partners experienced healthcare providers with students working to complete their degree programs.

“A nursing preceptorship supports the nursing student as they prepare to transition into a highly technical, rapidly changing healthcare environment,” states Lori Bailey, RN, MSN, Chief Nursing Officer at ORHC. “We believe a solid preceptorship directly links to our organization’s mission and vision, and is one of the best ways to facilitate the novice nurse in developing sound critical thinking skills enhancing their ability in becoming a competent, safe, and skillful provider of care.”

A recent graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Iowa Wesleyan University, Laura Van Winkle, knew she wanted to go into health care at the early age of eight years old. She recalled seeing her sister cut her arm on a broken window and then saw her father, a physician, stitch her up. After that experience, she wanted to help people by going into the medical field.

In 2011, Laura completed her paramedic training at Indian Hills Community College and gained a valuable foundation with experience in pre-hospital EMS in Jefferson, Mahaska, and Van Buren Counties.

“One situation that stands out is when I was changing a monitor on a patient in an ambulance and the patient went into cardiac arrest, recalls Laura. “Because the team was trained and ready, we were able to stabilize the patient so they could be taken by AirCare for lifesaving treatment.”

Years later, she went on to pursue her BSN degree a Iowa Wesleyan, which was close to home. As part of her training she performed her preceptorship time as an RN in the ORHC ED and was mentored by Gretchen Springer, BSN.

“I was happy to be able to learn from Gretchen,” says Laura. “She has helped many students through the preceptor program and I learned a lot during my 210 preceptorship hours. The ED here is busy and provides a variety of experiences, many of which are critical patients.”

After graduating with her nursing degree and passing the boards, Laura decided to accept a full time position with ORHC. She said the team here works hard together and when things get busy with critical patients, they support each other to give the best care possible to all the patients.

Preceptor Gretchen Springer, RN said, “I like the preceptor program because the students are here for a longer period of time. Over the four months we can work to develop their skills and build a trusting relationship that fosters learning. Over time the students develop good critical thinking skills. Students coming through this program are very professional, poised, and ask good questions. It’s is a joy to work with students in this program.”

Another up and coming healthcare provider, Dillion McPherson, is no stranger to responding to emergencies under pressure. He spent four years serving in the Marines with two deployments to Iraq and another four years with the Army Ranger Special Operations team with two deployments to Afghanistan.

“I learned about trauma medicine during my military service and I wanted to make use of the training to make a difference in my community,” said Dillion. “I love working with critical patients, particularly cardiac patients. I like to work with a team of professionals to help a patient who is teetering on the edge and be able to use my skills and experience to help bring the patient out of the critical situation.”

Dillion has worked in eight different hospitals for clinical rounds required to achieve his degree. Most of his clinical time has been spent at ORHC working in different areas including the emergency department and ICU. In all he will have nearly 200 hours of clinical time logged before graduating in February 2018.

“No matter where have been I’ve learned that this is a calling, not a 9 to 5 job,” said Dillion. “You either love it or you don’t. I’ve learned from many providers and I know what type of provider I want to be, one that truly cares for the patients and wants the best possible outcome for them.”

In a service industry, we need to recruit the right personalities for these specialty positions, especially when dealing with patient’s lives. ORHC emergency department sees 50-70 patients a day that come from all walks of life. EMS is often intense, fast-paced and requires critical thinking skills in time sensitive situations.

As we work to build our team, the people we hire also need to have the soft skills required when caring for individuals having the worst day of their life.

“We are fortunate to have students from our local area coming to the ED and ambulance service to gain their healthcare foundations with some of the best providers, RN’s and paramedics in Southeast Iowa. There is no better experience than on the job training with a skilled mentor!” commented Cindy Hewitt, Director ORHC EMS and an RN and Paramedic.

We all have experienced the media creating sensational TV shows or live footage of healthcare. At ORHC, we want to meet those expectations, and then exceed with the patient experience in the ED by having the right professionals in place.