More than a dozen nursing students from Clayton State University completed applications and were accepted into the Dedicated Education Unit program at Piedmont Fayette Hospital last fall for health care. The nursing students were paired with Piedmont nurses who were also certified clinical instructors on the unit, which functions as a medical/surgical floor, while they worked towards satisfying their clinical rotation requirement of 129 total hours. This program was the first of its kind at any Piedmont hospital and it prepared the students for working in nursing, and more specifically, working at Piedmont.
“Through the first two cohorts, 22 students have been hired as nurses by Piedmont,” said Piedmont Fayette’s Chief Nursing Officer Merry Heath. “We also have a 100 percent retention rate with these nurses. I believe it is because they learned our culture and were able to see first-hand how we value our employees.”
A dedicated education unit is not a new concept in nursing, but Piedmont Fayette made some changes to the platform that is now being adopted by other hospitals in the metro Atlanta area. The unit allows the nursing students to become more involved with patients and staff. Many of these students give shots, start IVs, learn to chart and learn how to navigate within the Epic electronic health record system. Upon graduation, theses nurses are ready to get to work. If they are hired at Piedmont Fayette or another Piedmont hospital, there is no learning curve. They know the processes and protocols, as well as the culture within the hospital.
“Piedmont Fayette is the only hospital in the state of Georgia with the Pathway to Excellence designation from the American Association of Clinical Nursing, and we are one of two hospitals in the state to be named one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals by Healthgrades,” said Heath. “We set high standards for our employees, and I believe that’s why so many people want to work here.”
There is definitely a demand from nursing students who want to join the Dedicated Education Unit. Heath and her team are evaluating dozens of applications for the limited number of spots in the program.
“Our students cannot speak highly enough about this program and how it helped their independence, confidence and their overall knowledge,” said Emily Kilburg, Clinical Nursing Instructor for Clayton State University. “It is a credit to the nurses at Piedmont Fayette, who serve as instructors in this program and worked one on one with the students that these new nurses are where they are today.”
Piedmont Fayette is also seeing an impact of the Dedicated Education Unit program on other educational opportunities involving students at the hospital. For instance, different nursing schools bring groups of nurses to the hospital for clinical rotations throughout the year and now the expectations for these nurses are much higher. While they may not have the same duties as the nurses in the Dedicated Education Unit program, these students are expected to get involved and become a part of the team during their time at Piedmont Fayette.
High school students who are part of the Allied Health program offered by Fayette County Schools also get a taste of what working at Piedmont is like. Some students, particularly those who earned a certification in phlebotomy, got active training in the hospital or a physician’s practice and had the opportunity for a paid position upon high school graduation. Piedmont Fayette also had work-based learning students serve as graphic designers within the hospital’s administration department during the school year.
“Piedmont Fayette isn’t a teaching hospital, by definition, but we believe that we have a lot that we can teach to students,” said Piedmont Fayette CEO Michael Burnett. “Our goal has always been to encourage the next generation of healthcare workers to return to Fayette County after graduation and work at Piedmont Fayette, but we also want local students to know that there are plenty of non-clinical opportunities at the hospital as well.”
Burnett believes that the successes that the hospital enjoys comes from the staff, and that is why he believes it is critical to partner with local schools and invest in education.
“We want all of our employees, clinical or otherwise, to provide great care to our patients and visitors,” said Burnett. “That level of care and the commitment to making a positive difference in every life we touch has to be taught. We are glad we can share that with all of the students at Piedmont Fayette, and we hope they return as employees and pass it on to the next generation.”