The initiative that's bringing nurses back to the bedside at Jefferson Health

Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health launched its "Nursing SEAL Team" program in July, which aims to give nurses more flexibility with where they work. Now, in the month since the initial team launch, the program has expanded into other departments and is attracting former employees back to the system. 

Participating nurses are deployed to various acute care locations based on anticipating staffing needs, which allows for them to choose where they'd like to work across multiple divisions, states or across the system. 

Since its launch, the Nursing SEAL Team — which stands for service, excellence, advocacy and leadership — has grown by 5 percent, and Jefferson Health has hired 25 people total with 20 additional nurses currently in the application pipeline, according to Daniel Hudson, MSN, RN, vice president of nursing administration and operations for Jefferson Health. 

Some of these applicants are in other departments aside from acute care nursing, with the program now beginning to expand into emergency departments and perioperative services.

One of the needs for the team, Mr. Hudson said, came about because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to move nurses across facilities or regions based on the changing needs. 

"So we really needed to build that flexibility and that was really the concept," Mr. Hudson said. "On top of just being able to respond more effectively to not even just emergent but urgent situations."

Mr. Hudson said the vision of the program is to have hundreds of nurses available to meet the needs of Jefferson Health's 18 hospitals. In addition, he said Jefferson hopes to expand the program to non-licensed individuals or certified roles such as surgical technicians. 

The SEAL Team not only provides greater flexibility for employees at Jefferson but allows employees to have their needs met as well. 

"So what we're hearing from our own nurses right now, in the field program, is it's almost like being a traveler and being compensated very close to what that looks like with benefits but having somewhere they can call home," Mr. Hudson said. 

Kate Fitzpatrick, DNP, RN, chief nurse executive at Jefferson Health, said the SEAL Team fits into the organization's larger goal of workplace flexibility for nurses.

"The SEAL Team was just one strategy to help us think about how do we optimize a flexible professional nursing workforce and really connect with some of what we see in a component of our nursing staff, where they really really desire flexibility and the ability to move around and have varied clinical experience," Dr. Fitzpatrick said. 

The idea, Dr. Fitzpatrick said, is to make sure nurses are working in an environment that allows them to "provide care at the highest level of their licensure, and that patient and family experience of care is at the highest level." 

In addition to the flexibility component, the health system hopes the staffing model attracts other nurses in their region. 

The program is also allowing them to retain workers and bring back employees who had previously left Jefferson. Out of the 24 current hires, two are former employees. There are also several former employees currently in the application process.

"And so when we talk about the value that brings to our system, with knowledge that we lost from our system that we can bring back and quickly integrate, that's invaluable," Mr. Hudson added.

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