Getting a foot in the acute care door

Program helps nurses get into the hospital setting
Nov. 11, 2015

Registered nurse Erin Morris wanted to work in a hospital, but she didn’t have the experience to get her foot in the door despite having a bachelor’s in nursing. After moving to northern Colorado and spending three months applying for jobs, she was hired by a long-term-care facility in Loveland.

“Unfortunately, a new grad without hospital experience struggles to get on [at a hospital],” she said. “I found a lot of my fellow graduates were experiencing the same thing and had to start in long-term care and acute rehab settings.”

Registered nurse Erin Morris was offered an opportunity to transition from working in long-term care to an acute-care position with UCHealth as part of the system’s Transition to Acute Care Practice program.

And after working two years in a nursing home, she still found hospitals wanted her to have hospital experience. But then she came across UCHealth’s Transition to Acute Care Practice (TACP) program, and her qualifications were perfect for the new program.

Morris was part of UCHealth Northern Colorado’s first cohort to go through the program, which provides nurses outside the hospital setting with the skills necessary to work in acute care, with the end result of a hospital job, said Jody DeStigter, education nurse specialist with UCHealth’s Clinical Education and Innovation Center (CEIC) in Windsor.

“This program is a great opportunity for nurses to follow their passion into acute care,” she said.

TACP first originated at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, DeStigter said. And because of its success, the first cohort of five students started Aug. 31 with the program in northern Colorado.

Participants go through mandatory UCHealth orientation, and then spend a week in skills labs at the CEIC learning more acute care techniques, such as using pumps and chest tubes — skills they’ll use on the floor but might not have used in a long-term health care setting. Each nurse then moves onto the floor for a two-month orientation with either PVH’s or Medical Center of the Rockies’ Medical Services unit. During that time, the group also meets with DeStigter to go over issues that may have come up doing their floor orientation.

“We tackle their concerns, and I talk with their unit managers to see what we may need to review,” DeStigter said. “It’s also a nice way for them to get together and share their experiences.”

Morris said it’s nice knowing she has a support team as she takes on her new and different responsibilities.

“It’s nice to have that extra buddy on the floor,” she said. “We are both new but with nursing experience, so it’s just that extra support system that’s nice when you are transitioning to a new job and a new setting.”

Currently, Medical Services is the only department participating in the program. Morris and one other program participant are working at PVH, while the other three are at MCR.

“We wanted to pilot it in only one unit first to see if we had an effective program,” DeStigter said. “With the next cohort in January, we plan to expand to all acute-care areas that want to have the TACP nurses.”

Morris said the program has helped immensely with her transition into acute care. “It’s a big jump from long-term care to the hospital,” she said. “But I feel my long-term care comes in handy as far as bedside manner. That experience shines through when dealing with the patients and their families.”

Morris said she hopes the program continues, for the sake of others like her. “I think it’s very beneficial,” she said. “There are nurses out there who want to be in the hospital but feel like I did — stuck — and this is a great opportunity for them.”

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.