How to reimagine training and development strategies to support the modern workforce — Insights from UPMC and Strategic Education, Inc.

Nursing shortages have reached crisis proportions across the United States. Amid this challenge, many innovative organizations are focused on creating seamless, cost-effective pathways to higher education to address the issue. 

During a featured session sponsored by Strategic Education, Inc., parent company of Capella University, as part of Becker's Healthcare HR + Talent Virtual Event, two workforce experts discussed how leading health systems are reimagining training and development to support their nursing talent:

  • Adele Webb, PhD, RN, executive dean of healthcare initiatives, Strategic Education Inc.
  • Pam Arroyo, director, human resources, UPMC in Pittsburgh

Six takeaways: 

  1. Healthcare organizations face a daunting and costly war for talent. Since the pandemic began, the number of unfilled jobs has increased while candidates for open positions have disappeared. Mounting competition for talent has spurred increases in employee turnover. As Ms. Arroyo explained, "We estimate the cost of employee turnover at UPMC in the last 12 months at more than $81 million. We have over 100,000 job postings, almost 20 percent more than last year, and not enough qualified applicants."
  2. Professional development is a proven tool for increasing nurse satisfaction and retention. It is well-known that training and development improves clinical skills — and better skills lead to better patient outcomes. A study by Price and Reichert found that professional development also increased nurse satisfaction and retention. "Turnover is expensive," Dr. Webb said. "The cost of replacing a med-surg nurse is about $85,000 and a specialty nurse is around $140,000. Professional development and higher education programs play an important role when nurses make employment decisions. With training and education, we can retain our existing nurses and compete more effectively when recruiting new ones." 
  3. Health systems must take steps to prevent a nurse leadership shortage. Many of the nurses that will leave the profession in the coming years are likely to be seasoned nurse leaders. "Healthcare organizations can leverage partnerships with academia to prepare their nurses for leadership roles," Dr. Webb said. "Why not keep your experienced nurses with institutional knowledge and dedication and cultivate them for the next level of leadership in your organization?" 
  4. The lack of diversity in nursing is also a critical problem. Healthcare educators must be mindful to recruit a diverse student body and healthcare organizations must upskill minority nurses into clinical faculty positions, as well as didactic faculty roles. Mentoring programs, streamlined policies and scholarships are potential tactics for addressing this situation. 
  5. UPMC partnered with Strategic Education, Inc. to support career pathways for nurses. Eligible employees can earn their BSN or MSN degree from Capella University at little or no cost through Tuition Assistance Aligned Pricing (TAAP) offered through the partnership. "We started discussing the partnership with employees in June 2020 and soon thereafter, inquiries, applications and enrollment began to skyrocket," Ms. Arroyo said. 
  6. Strategic Education, Inc. and its affiliate, Capella University, offer creative educational solutions for healthcare organizations. In addition to degree programs, there are CE-accredited courses that focus on building emerging in-demand skills such as  nursing leadership, population health, social determinants of health, telehealth, risk management, Spanish for nurses and more. Workforce Edge, an innovative, no-cost tuition assistance platform, serves as a user-friendly one-stop shop for all education benefits in an organization. 

Healthcare systems are finding that innovative skill-building and career pathway programs are a win-win solution to today's nursing talent crisis. As Ms. Arroyo noted, "Not only is our partnership with Strategic Education, Inc. a true benefit for our nurses in exchange for their employment, but our patients benefit as well."

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