Editor's note: This is the second of a five-part series examining the expansion of health care in Yavapai County.
PRESCOTT For the first time in 10 years, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) is not facing the nursing shortage it, and most other hospitals in the country have faced in the past, which will benefit the YRMC East campus that opens in May.
"All the positions are filled, and now we need to focus on hiring employees for the new campus," said Mardy Taylor, chief nursing officer at YRMC.
"We've improved our nurse-to-patient ratio from one nurse to every six patients to one nurse to every five patients," she said, adding that the hospital currently has 1,450 employees and hired around 284 more, including about 100 new nurses.
Robbie Nicol, director of development and community relations, said that about 25 percent of the employees that will work at the East campus will come from the existing hospital.
Aside from "living in a community that attracts people, advertising and the focus on improving the nurse-to-patient ratio," Taylor said that YRMC has made several other attempts to fix the shortage problem.
"The problem has been ongoing," she said. "We've been steadily gaining on meeting the needs of the hospital. We're right where we need to be."
Even so, Nicol said, "We're always looking for good nursing staff."
Tim Barnett, CEO of YRMC, added, "We'll challenge ourselves to recruit for the new hospital."
To recruit and keep nurses, Taylor said the hospital has made more partnerships with Yavapai College, and now offers an "externship" program for second-year nursing students.
"They get to work side-by-side with a regular nurse, learning the professional nursing role," Barnett said.
"That attracts them to the hospital, and at least 80 percent of them stay," Taylor said, adding that, "The college is very important in helping us recruit new employees."
Also, YRMC has "a monthly stipend to support them while they're finishing their nursing program," Barnett said, and they also offer tuition reimbursement.
The hospital also offers different training opportunities for employees to excel in their career and learn new things, and has a nursing assistant program so that "our hospital nursing assistants can learn additional procedures."
Taylor said YRMC offers a perioperative 101 course, which is "a national course developed by the American Association of Operating Nurses, and it's for RNs who would like to become operating-room nurses. It's a five-week program with additional clinical training, which helps to keep them here."
Though YRMC has the staffing it needs, "We don't have the facility," Barnett said, adding that the current YRMC has been "busting at the seams" for quite a while.
To accommodate the growing community, Barnett said the hospital has been building a North Expansion, in which the first phase opened in November and includes four operating rooms, nine recovery room beds and 16 additional prep and recovery beds.
"This will help to meet the community's needs," Taylor said.
During phase II, which will open in the summer of 2006, she said, "we will be remodeling our old operating room area and making two more operating rooms out of that space. The nice thing is that all of our operating rooms will be larger than in the past."
Barnett added, "With all the video equipment and technology used in surgery today, having that extra space will help."
Though the new North Expansion will help with some of the growth in the Prescott area, Barnett said the new East Campus is greatly needed.
"It's a challenge to keep up with the growth in the area, and we're doing everything we can to expand," he said.
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