How the ‘Nursing Partnership Program’ is solving Oklahoma’s shortage of professions

Amid a nursing shortage, Norman Regional Health System is working with local colleges to bridge the gap between students in the classroom and at the bedside.

The Nurse Partner Program provides Oklahoma nursing students hands-on hospital experience during their final semester as well as compensation for clinical hours required to graduate.

The program in March 2021, following Governor Stitt and the Oklahoma Board of Nursing’s acknowledgment of extreme staffing shortages. The shortages are largely due to pandemic exhaustion.

The program is overseen by Kelia Crabbe, RN, MSN, and is a transition-to-practice specialist who oversees the program at Norman Regional.

Crabbe said the main goal of the program is to bridge the gap between students and employees.

“Not only were we understaffed, but the complexity of the patients was also very important,” Crabbe said. “We had students who weren’t able to be part of the clinical opportunity, so that allowed us to bridge that gap.”

The program creates a partnership between the NRHS and the nursing schools of seven academic entities in the region. Nursing students have the opportunity to participate in clinics while employed in the hospital.

Students are also required to work as nursing assistants for overtime required by their college.

“We could bring them to the bedside to practice in the clinic with an experienced nurse and allow them to gain experience in the hopes that they would be more ready to practice nursing once they graduate,” Crabbe said. .

Last year, Brittney Vaughan took the program while attending Oklahoma City Community College. Vaughan said it was a seamless transition into the nursing profession.

“I had a unique experience starting my first job as a nurse,” Vaughan said. “I was able to be a hospital employee, and I felt like it gave me the chance to know my peers and they got to know me. It kind of helped me to decide that this was where I wanted to work.

Vaughan said compensation for clinical hours was a benefit, but she said the real benefit was seeing what the hospital was like before committing to full-time employment after graduation.

“We know we’re building confidence and competence in new nurses,” Crabbe said.

Crabbe said they ultimately want this program to be a recruiting pipeline.

“Incentivize their program, incentivize their hospital, and ultimately drive new hires out of it,” Crabbe said. “We are very happy to find a job here.”

If you are a nursing student and would like to apply for the program, click here.

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