Amid staff shortage, Maricopa County pilot program aims to get nursing students ready for work

With the ongoing nursing shortage, Maricopa County is launching a new pilot program to get nursing students ready to enter the workforce.

According to Maricopa County, there were over 5,500 registered nurse vacancies in the county in April 2021, a 40% increase compared to 2020.

"The nursing shortage has been here for a long time, but now, it’s even worse with our COVID numbers that continue to increase," said project manager Robin Schaeffer.

The program aims to get nursing school students more hands-on experience to thrive in the medical field, as soon as they graduate.

"This actually gets incorporated before the nurse gets hired, so it’s in their last six weeks of their nursing school screening, and in those last six weeks, we want them to work and function like they are a hired nurse," said Schaffer.

The program is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.

"I want them to feel confident, to feel like they have the training they need, they have all the backup support that they need to be able to transition into the workplace and stay there," said Schaeffer.

In Maricopa County, there are more than 2,000 new graduate nurses a year. However, the program will be starting small, taking in 50 senior students and placing them into five different locations.

"3 of them will be hospital-based employers, and two of them will be out in the community because we have nurses working out in the community," said Schaffer. "What we are doing is a pilot to see does this work, and I’m sure we are going to make some tweaks and improvements."

The project began in the start of the year, and it will last until December 2022.

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