WVU Medicine Human Resources and the Department of Nursing have created the First Year Experience Program, which provides networking and social opportunities for newly-hired nurses.

Recently, the program hosted its first in a series of monthly events, a tailgate that featured food, games, music, and prizes. Most of the activities, such as a hike and picnic at Coopers Rock, will occur off campus. Family members are welcomed at the events.

“The goal is to assist with retention and help better acclimate new nurses not only to WVU Medicine, but to the community and state,” Deveran George, director for recruitment and retention, said.

RN recruitment and retention is an organizational priority. WVU Medicine hired 445 RNs through Oct. 1 of this year and is continuing to recruit for additional staffing in preparation of expansion. For comparison, in 2015, WVU Medicine hired 355 RNs; in 2014, WVU Medicine hired 229 RNs. Recruitment and hiring are particularly challenging due to a national shortage of RNs, George said.

Along with signing bonuses and a competitive benefits and compensation packages, the First Year Experience Program is another way to make the organization more attractive to nurses, particularly those coming from out of state who may be looking to live in the area long-term.

Lya Stroupe, manager of nursing research and professional development, said the First Year Experience Program is one of many ongoing retention initiatives but has a unique focus on newly-hired nurses, many of whom are of the millennial generation.

The program is designed to help young nurses not only transition into their new career but also to educate them about West Virginia and what the area has to offer, Stroupe said.

“This program gives them many opportunities to network with other, more experienced nurses, which should enhance their professional development,” Stroupe said. “This type of interaction also will give them a better sense of the values and vision of WVU Medicine, which we hope they will embrace.”

Doug Mitchell, vice president and chief nursing officer, WVU Medicine-WVU Hospitals, left, sits in at a table during a recent First Year Experience Program tailgate.