Campus: Long Beach -- January 26, 2006

1st Cohort of Nursing Students from CSULB-Long Beach Memorial Program Graduate, Begin Working

Two years ago, Kaicia Lampe was one of the first students to enroll in a new $15 million nursing partnership program between California State University, Long Beach and Long Beach Memorial Medical Center/Miller Children's Hospital.

This week, Lampe officially joined the workforce, beginning her new career at the very medical center that helped put her on a faster track to becoming a nurse. Beginning her first full week on the job at Long Beach Memorial, she is taking part in an orientation designed to help acclimate her for her new job as a nurse for the adult ICU (intensive care unit).

"Coming away from the program, I can't tell you how thrilled I was to be a part of the whole thing," said Lampe, who noted that her orientation program will last about six months and include specialty courses and constant supervision from an experienced nurse. "The people at Long Beach Memorial did such a good job of making us feel special and really following through on any educational needs we had. I really feel so prepared. I can't wait to start."

The first cohort of 36 students enrolled in the CSULB-Long Beach Memorial partnership program back in January 2004 completed the program in December. Upon graduation, all 36 students had jobs lined up, including 75 percent of whom accepted position with Long Beach Memorial or Miller Children's Hospital. Many in this inaugural class were part of Long Beach Memorial's work-in-exchange-for-education program, including Lampe, where the center paid student fees and book costs for those who agreed to work at the center for two years after graduating from the program.

The CSULB-Long Beach Memorial program was established to address California's critical shortage of registered nurses by making nursing education available to more university students via a satellite campus at the hospital. The unique nursing partnership, which included both medical centers and the university in the education process, more than doubled the number of CSULB students able to begin work on their RN/BSN degrees.

"We have a large amount of (nursing) vacancies at Long Beach Memorial, which was the impetus for us to start working with (Cal State Long Beach) in developing this program," noted Judy Fix, chief nursing officer at Long Beach Memorial. "We knew we did not have the supply of registered nurses that we needed to meet the demand."

If the results of the first cohort are any indication, however, Long Beach Memorial is well on its way to creating the supply to meet its demand. When the graduated nursing students show up for the new grad orientation this week, the medical center will welcome nearly 40 new nurses. Normally, its January orientation has only about eight to 10 new nurses.

"For us, the program has exceeded our expectations, and in ways we had not anticipated," said Susan Crockett, director of clinical workforce development at Long Beach Memorial. "It has created a cultural transformation for us around a reinvigoration about how valued the profession of nursing is, how important the profession is and how dedicated the nurses are to it. That has been a hidden benefit that we did not expect."

Crockett explained that the registered nurses who filled the clinical educator roles for the on-site clinicals have become reinvigorated around the profession of nursing as a result of their exposure to students. Hospital administrators involved with the program have also seen the same attitude in its RNs who serve as preceptors, who work with the nursing students during their last semester, working with them one-on-one and having them mirror the RNs' schedules and day-to-day activities.

"So, the program has helped us in not only getting registered nurses but also in giving everyone involved a new excitement and pride about the profession," Crockett pointed out.

Officials at Cal State Long Beach were equally as pleased. "It, too, exceeded our expectations," said Loucine Huckabay, director of the CSULB Nursing Program. "We were expecting everything to go well because nothing was left to chance. Every step was planned. We wanted to guarantee that each student who entered the program would succeed, and they did.

"The success of this first cohort has also solidified the tremendous relationship we have with Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Children's Miller Hospital," she added. "You know, we were both involved with the creation and planning of this program, but the relationship and trust between the university and the medical center has grown even stronger over the last two years. And, the graduation of this first group of nursing students is a wonderful and shining example of what we've accomplished together."

The program created a satellite campus at Long Beach Memorial, where nursing student took clinical courses led by faculty from both the university and the medical center. The hospital's sophisticated nine-bed skills/simulator lab served as a realistic patient care setting and provided a learning opportunity in a non-threatening clinical environment. The students also received direct, hands-on experiences with real patients at Long Beach Memorial and Miller Children's Hospital.

In addition, because of the accelerated nature of the trimester (spring, summer and fall) program, it enabled students to complete the nursing component their BSN degree in just two years, instead of the traditional three.

"The trimester, full-time aspect of the program was a really big 'X' factor when we originally signed up. You do give up your summers and go straight through the program," Lampe explained. "Academically, you really have to be prepared to do two solid years of work, and nursing is not one of those subjects where you can just pick up a book before the test and wing it. You really have to invest yourself and clear your schedule. Even working part-time (at another job) is a big deal."

Lampe recalled times during the summer where students worked 12-hour shifts on top of three days at school each week. Those 12-hour shifts included working with and researching patients and delivering care under the supervision of a nurse or instructor.

"It is a rigorous schedule, and I would say it is not for the light-hearted. On the flip side, I really got so much out of the program," Lampe noted. "Most nurses work 12-hour shifts. So, I felt I gained a lot from that experience because I got to see a full shift worth of work. I believe it will help my transition into the workforce."

And what about the quality of these nursing graduates? "The students, too, have exceeded our expectations. They're intelligent; they're inquisitive; they're bright and they're well-educated," Crockett said. "Cal State Long Beach has an excellent nursing program that gives them the basics. We give them the clinical training here at Long Beach Memorial, but you have got to have the basic theory in order to be an expert practitioner. These individuals have got what it takes to be expert practitioners, and we believe they are going to change the entire face of nursing practice."

With the program entering its third year, the availability of new nursing graduates for Long Beach Memorial and other hospitals and medical centers up and down the state continues to grow. Between the 2006 spring and fall semesters, another 108 students will be enrolled in the program, and at the end of the 2006 spring semester (in May), another 36 nursing students will be graduating and entering the workforce.

"The national nursing shortage is a hot topic, and it's great that Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach Memorial were able to find a solution. And you know what, it is so smart," Lampe said. "At our pinning ceremony, Byron Schweigert of Long Beach Memorial said in his speech that the program was really an act of self-preservation. I felt that was well worded. It really is (an act of self-preservation). Memorial needs more nurses, and the CSULB Nursing Program needs funding and additional classroom space to educate more nurses. I'm really glad they were able to come up with a solution that works for everyone."

Looking at where she is now, Lampe knows it worked for her.

"I think it is a great program for anyone interested in nursing and wants to be part of a hospital program that is really welcoming," she said. "The program provided great instructors, and those involved with the program really listened to feedback. In terms of living up to the hype, I would say the program did that and then some. I just feel like it was organized really well. I was very, very impressed, and I'm very, very satisfied with my education. I couldn't be happier with it. In fact, I'm sad to see it end."

It really hasn't ended, though. In fact, in many ways, Lampe's education as a nurse is just beginning.

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