Campus News

UW Health expands nurse residency program amid national, state shortage

UW Health said it would accommodate more nursing residents to address a state and nationwide shortage in registered nurses.

UW Health said it would accommodate more nursing residents to address a state and nationwide shortage in registered nurses.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

UW Health announced it would expand its Nurse Residency Program and its recruiting efforts to cope with a rising demand and increasing shortage for nurses nationwide.

“We’ve really tried to be proactive, so that we don’t feel the shortages as much as some other sites have felt,” said program manager Kim McPhee. 

The one-year program is comprised of groups between 20 to 40 nurse residents who graduated from an accredited nursing program. Residents eventually fill vacant spots left by retiring nurses and to fill new positions as well. 

The program is one of 29 recognized programs with a Certified Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Over the past 13 years, the residency program hired over 2,000 nurses — which accounts for two-thirds of the current UW Health staff, according to WMTV.

“Before we had this nurse residency program, we were experiencing what everyone experienced around the country, where up to 60 percent of new graduate nurses left the profession in the first year,” McPhee said. “That’s a huge concern.” 

From 2016-’26, job growth for registered nurses will increase 15 percent from 2.9 million to 3.4 million nurses, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau also projected that 203,700 will be needed each year to carry out new positions and replace retired nurses. 

At the same time, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing identified mitigating factors that led to the nurse shortage. 

Reasons include insufficient staffing at hospitals and clinics, which can lead to lower job satisfaction and drive nurses away from the profession, as well as a significant amount of nurses approaching retirement age which results in higher turnover rates and a lack of nursing school faculty, in turn driving down enrollment. 

Funding issues remain an underlying cause of the nursing shortage. 

A UW-Eau Claire study predicted that over 10,000 nurses left the state’s workforce by the start of 2020 and also predicted the shortage gap will increase to 23,000 nurses by 2040. 

While 77 percent of Wisconsin nurses earned their most recent degree in-state and projections forecast a 43 percent increase in demand for nurses, 50 to 80 percent of qualified applicants to UW System programs are denied due to capacity issues, the study reported.

UW Health did not indicate how many additional spots will be included in its residency program.

The residency program currently holds 3,152 nurses and added 572 nurses in 2019. The next class of resident nurses will graduate Feb. 21. 

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