How Northside’s extern program is preparing future nurses

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Jenny and Amy Tortoriello (now Jenny Andris) now work together at the place where they met.That place is labor and delivery at Northside Hospital, where Amy was born when Jenny was 9.Both were inspired by the Northside nurses who cared for their mom when she had breast cancer.Andris has been a nurse at Northside for 10 years, working in labor and delivery.And now Tortoriello, a senior nursing student at Georgia Southern, is joining her sister as part of the extern program.The sisters say working together at Northside is a dream come true

Students learn ins and out of hospital while still in nursing school

Amy Tortoriello is a rising senior at Georgia Southern University’s School of Nursing. She’s also a labor and delivery nurse at Northside Hospital — well, at least until school starts back in the fall.

Tortoriello is part of Northside’s Nurse Extern Program, designed “to engage nursing students a little bit earlier in their school career to give them an opportunity to get acclimated to an inpatient environment, develop some relationships with nurses and former external residents, and to build their confidence as they transition from student to nurse,” said Teal Edmeade, manager of talent acquisition at Northside.

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Although the program is only a year old, it is already popular with students. For the 100 spaces available its first year, Edmeade said she received 200 applications.

Those who qualified — meaning, among other things, they had completed at least one round of clinicals and could begin working by the time the hiring event began in December — were invited to the hospital, given tours and introduced to staff. Then the race was on, because spaces were filled on a first come, first hired basis.

“In the introduction to Northside, they got to really tour each patient care area,” Edmeade said. “They got to understand the nuances between the specialty areas, had lots of patient contact, and learned a little bit more about to process.”

She said this is important for many, because it’s their first job in health care.

“Going into a facility that’s huge and daunting and not knowing where you’re going, or to a unit where you’ve never met anybody and you’re not sure exactly what you’re going to be doing, and you’re not sure of your skills, that can be perceived as a really negative experience,” she said. “And so, having them come to this program and feeling like they know somebody there, so when they start they get to see some of the same people they’ve been in communication with, somebody that’s training them and that they met previously, you automatically have a level of comfort when you’re starting out. I think that makes the difference of whether or not they want to stay with us and complete their residency with us.”

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With the ever-growing nursing shortage, it’s important to attract care providers early. There’s no better time than while they’re still in school. Edmeade said one reason students should choose Northside’s program is its flexibility.

“A lot of times it’s difficult to consider working because the classes are so demanding. Then you have your clinicals on top of your classes, and then study time,” she said. “So we really do understand that nursing school takes priority. So this program is so flexible, that you can work as little or as much as you want to. Whatever is needed in order to make a schedule work for a student, we will find a way to accommodate that student.

“So it is really to encourage every single student to have an opportunity to gain some insight from working at the hospital and not shy away from it because they’re in school,” she concluded.

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