Since I became DaVita Kidney Care’s chief nursing officer in October 2021, one aspect of my job I’ve loved the most is the opportunity to host nursing roundtables across the country. It’s an opportunity to connect face-to-face with some of our most inspiring caregiving teammates. It’s also a moment to lean in and uncover what’s going well and what could go better.
During these roundtables, it’s become clear to me what we’re doing well. We offer ample support and resources to our nurses that help them feel their best in and out of work. And, we recognize we have something unique to offer nurses who want real connection with patients and predictability in their schedules.
On the flip side, we know fatigue in health care is real. A reported 610,000 registered nurses have expressed an “intent to leave” by 2027 due to stress, burnout and retirement, according to April 2023 data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Simultaneously, there’s a growing need for nurses with experience in nephrology as more than 1 in 7 American adults currently suffer from kidney disease.
With the realities of nursing front of mind, these roundtables are about so much more than listening. They’re also about coming up with a plan to do better for our nurses and think bigger about the challenges they face. With their input guiding our way, my team and I have embarked on a three-prong strategy to help eliminate the nursing workforce shortage. In doing so, we hope to help protect the work-life balance of teammates we currently have by being fully staffed and attract new teammates to a specialty in kidney care.
First, we’re focused on securing collaborations with universities so we can increase understanding of what nephrology is with nursing students since nursing school historically has included a minimal focus on this specialty. Last year alone, we secured two! In September, we announced we’re joining forces with Chamberlain University on a nephrology-practice specialty curriculum. This elective curriculum will be offered beginning this month via online courses during students’ final year of nursing school. As the first student nurses begin this curriculum, DaVita is already working to expand this effort by working with other schools across the country to offer nephrology nursing curriculum. Once at scale, we anticipate as many as 6,000 total student nurses will have access to the curriculum.
Building on this momentum, we announced in December that the DaVita Giving Foundation is awarding Western Governors University a $1 million grant to help increase nursing degree completion at the university nationwide. The grant will offer targeted assistance for students who have financial barriers to completing their education.
Second, we’re offering clinical internships to nursing students so they can see firsthand how special kidney care is. As part of the nephrology-practice specialty curriculum at Chamberlain University, these students will participate in a clinical practicum with hands-on learning. These clinical internships will provide an immersive experience by working alongside DaVita caregivers to provide patient care.
We’re also offering clinical internships outside of the specialty curriculum with schools across the country. Through all of these, we anticipate as many as 5,200 internships once at scale in 2025, with the potential of 1,400 conversions to hire.
Third, we’ve created a residency program, also known as DaVita’s Transition to Practice Program, that supports newly hired nurse graduates and helps ensure they are properly trained during their first year. This onboarding program is designed to prepare new nurse graduates to practice in the nephrology specialty through holistic training. Nurses in the program engage with interactive lessons to explore dialysis vascular and PD access, self-care, DaVita’s culture of safety, home modalities, acute care and more. These modules are offered via live online classes, videos, self-guided teaching and self-guided reflection. Nurses in this program meet with senior nurse leaders in their area for ongoing support and to contextualize the information for their work location.
My career began as a dialysis patient care technician and a kidney care nurse, which is why I’m so passionate about ensuring nursing students and new nurses have the tools needed to thrive at work. It’s such a uniquely fulfilling specialty; we know that if we show students and nurses what it’s all about, we’ll entice so many to the field. It’s our hope that our three-prong approach will not only attract and retain nurses, but also enable us to make a lasting, positive impact on the lives of countless patients.