■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
I recently met with a group of newly-graduated registered nurses and their supervisors at Physicians for Healthy Hospitals, Inc. (formerly known as Valley Health Systems). I received a crash course in the hospital’s rigorous eight-week orientation/preceptor program, where these ambitious, young men and women are beginning their careers in the TLC world of medicine.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Maria Siqueiros, human resources supervisor; Michele Bird, vice president, human resources; and Kathryn McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and chief operations officer.
“These young people have no duty experience, having never worked as an RN. Perhaps they have been an LVN or nurse’s assistant before, so we need to give them the feel for what it is to be an on-duty RN,” explained Siqueiros.
During this training period, each new RN will buddy with a staff member for 12-hour shifts. Full time, it works out to 12 shifts per month. These registered nurses must also be scheduled every other weekend plus holidays as needed.
New grads are able to opt for either being benefitted or non-benefitted during the eight-week training stint. However, some things happen right away: medical and dental insurance begin first of the month after 30 days of hire; they are eligible for tuition reimbursement; receive education days and pay for those days; and eight paid holidays annually.
Pretty much like the G.I. Bill with extras.
During training these plebes become competent in all hands-on forms of life support before they hit the floor as a registered nurse in full time job.
What nursing specialty is most popular? It’s hard to say.
“They may think they want to get into a particular area, but it is hard to know going in until they’ve been confronted with it,” explained Siqueiros. “By being exposed to every aspect of nursing, one becomes better able to make a decision as to what field of nursing best fits the desires and personality of the individual — also there is sometimes a field with a higher need and demand, which can be a plus financially and in opportunity.”
It was somewhat reluctantly explained that more aspirants prefer surgery to gerontology or a less exciting field of medicine, although pediatrics is high on the desirable fields. Again, however, I was reminded that “they are still trying to find themselves. Fresh out of college they really don’t know, having only a general knowledge or idea, but aren’t sure exactly what they want to do until they’ve been working as a nurse full time.”
How optimistic are my three nursing honchos about the future of our local hospital and management? No disagreement there.
“We are very progressive. Dr. Kali Chaudhuri, who continues to lead this facility, is totally committed to this hospital and making our community more medically self-sufficient,” Bird pointed out.
All three considered the good doctor and community investor a wonderful man and totally supportive of new and innovative ways to improve hospital services here in the valley.
“He has led the way in an aggressive program toward patient care. Thanks to his leadership we expect to have a state-of-the-art open heart surgery center so patients don’t have to leave the valley for that type of surgery and follow-up treatment. Dr. Chaudhuri has always been way ahead of the curve on such possibilities.”
The three ladies offering all this insight have combined almost a century of experience in the nursing field between them. Bird has been with the hospital 30 years, Siqueiros has been there 40 years. McLaughlin also measures up in experience.
When did this system of orientation involving new nursing grads surface here?
“We’ve had the new grad program for seven years. We do it maybe four times a year to accommodate new grads. We are unique in that not all hospitals will hire newly graduated nurses,” said Bird. “They can start their nursing careers with us as full time employees. It is exciting to see them in their first paying jobs as registered nurses. Their excitement and ambition inspires those of us who welcome youth and new ideas into the system. It is healthy for everyone.”
Physicians for Healthy Hospitals, inc., also has something new to ensure that their new-found miracle workers do not drift away after a few weeks or months.
“We have developed a two year program. It begins with our eight-week orientation and then on to the floor as full time registered nurses, where they are fully supervised and rated, as we all are,” explained Siqueiros. “Our managers on the floor assess skill levels and proficiency. Since we offer all of this real life experience, a two-year commitment in return is required. After that they are free to go elsewhere to work at other hospitals, doctor’s offices or as nurse practitioners. It is the best kind of on-the-job experience for a future in the medical profession.”
Sounds a lot like military service that requires a time of service to receive GI bill education benefits — only in this case it is somewhat reverse of that, but the same principle.
Your health system in the San Jacinto Valley is not grandpa’s health system from years before. There’s less hit-and-miss and more pinpoint accuracy.
“Our medical records today are on electronic charts. Nurses work with charts on computers at their stations,” explained McLaughlin. “Case histories are there to be pulled up and gone over when a doctor comes in prior to a surgery. He can assess a case history on the spot and be fully prepared to proceed with the operation. This has proven to be a great asset, especially to surgeons.”
These dedicated supervisors swear there is no better nursing care anywhere in Riverside County. Based on what I heard and saw, plus personal experience, I would concur that the TLC at Physicians for Healthy Hospitals, Inc., can compete with any other medical facility.
A couple of things to add here: There was a full house at the orientation meeting and Siqueiros has instituted a new policy. In addition to the new grads, all the nurse directors in the facility were invited to the meet and greet affair where names and faces came together to the benefit of all.
Incidentally, with a starting salary of $30 an hour on their first job, our cost of living is not the problem it would be in a big city like Los Angeles. If you’re still looking for a career, this might be right down your alley.