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Neighborhood news

TGH gets grant for nursing study

The program will determine how hospitals can retain experienced staff.

By ERIKA VIDAL
Published February 9, 2007


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DAVIS ISLANDS  - Mary Kutash knows how important it is to keep nurses happy. And as the project director for a new study taking place at Tampa General Hospital, she plans to help build evidence of ways to do just that.

Tampa General Hospital has received a $75,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to participate in a study of how to keep "experienced nurses" on staff in a hospital setting. Tampa General is one of 13 hospitals nationwide to take part in the new program called "Wisdom at Work: Retaining Experienced Nurses."

The main goal of the study is to help solve the nation's nursing shortage. Each of the 13 hospitals will evaluate different strategies, for a total investment of about $975,000, in building evidence of what works to help hospitals keep nurses.

The foundation, based out of Princeton, N.J., announced the new program in early January.

Tampa General's role in this 18-month study will be to determine how its lift team affects hiring and keeping experienced nurses, especially bedside nurses.

Hospitals have formed such teams in response to the obesity epidemic. A lift team is a group of people trained in patient-handling techniques. They transfer patients who can't move on their own and reposition heavy patients in their beds.

The study focuses on nurses over the age of 45.

At 47 - the average age of registered nurses, according to the Department of Health and Human Services - Kutash falls right into this group. In addition to being project director for this study, she's also a clinical nurse specialist for nursing research at TGH.

She hasn't been a bedside nurse for quite some time, and she acknowledges that things have changed. "Patients are coming in sicker," she said, but they're also getting bigger - and harder for nurses to move without risking injury to themselves.

"It's very different than when I was practicing at the bedside," Kutash said, referring to the recent rise in obesity.

She said that based on results of satisfaction surveys the hospital has conducted, the lift team is popular among the nurses. These teams save hospitals money, too, cutting costs related to injuries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002, nursing consistently ranks in the top 10 occupations for work-related musculoskeletal injuries.

In many cases this is due to patient handling, and studies and surveys have shown that back injuries are one of the leading contributors to the nursing shortage in the United States.

Since TGH implemented its lift team nearly five years ago, hospital officials said they've seen a 62 percent decrease in injuries related to patient handling.

Kutash said the hospital applied for this grant because hospital officials are concerned about hiring and keeping their nurses.

"Experienced nurses are so knowledgeable and they have so much to offer, and the nursing shortage is going to be a big problem in the future," Kutash said. For the most part, they've had positive experiences with their lift team, and she believes that those experiences could very well contribute to evidence of what helps keep and recruit nurses.

Through a series of surveys and focus groups, they'll evaluate the effectiveness of these lift teams. They'll also review workers' compensation data and cost. The human resources department at Tampa General estimates that about 1,500 nurses are eligible to participate.

Erika Vidal can be reached at evidal@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3339.

[Last modified February 8, 2007, 11:01:26]


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