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Starting Your Nursing Career: Finding the Right Nursing Program & Employer

Anthony G. Gonzalez, MSN, RN, CCRN-K Director – Nurse Residency Program

Memorial Healthcare System is committed to the community and building greater, smarter healthcare. We know that a highly qualified and trained Nurse makes the difference in patient care and quality outcomes.

Many of you will become a future Nurse and we hope to help you in this journey. We can start by helping you find an accredited school with excellent national nursing exam (NCLEX) pass rates. Successful completion of this exam is critical to your future employment and active nursing practice.

As a top employer of skilled clinicians, we are prepared to support you at every step of your continuous learning — from new graduate to first-year RN. Our Nurse Residency Program is an opportunity to transition into your professional nursing career through mentoring and real-life case studies.

But, first, let’s find the right nursing program for you

1: We advise that you ask the following questions when looking into a nursing school: What is their accreditation status?

a. We recommend nursing programs that are nationally accredited by agencies such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and/or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

b. Nursing schools that are accredited by these agencies are more likely to provide their students a well-rounded learning experience. They have a set curriculum with stringent guidelines, numerous education resources, and access to a greater number of clinical sites . Additionally, a significant majority of their graduates pass the NCLEX exam in their first attempt.

2. What are their NCLEX pass rates?

a. The Florida Board of Nursing collects data from academic nursing programs including the percentage of their graduates who pass the NCLEX exam the first time.

b. We recommend nursing programs with a consistent pass rate of 80% and above.

c. You can find the NCLEX pass rates of any nursing program that you’re interested in at the Florida Board of Nursing’s public website: https://floridasnursing.gov/education-and-training-programs/

There are obviously other factors to take into consideration such as learning environment, schedule, tuition, instructors, commute, and more.  But finding a reputable nursing program should be at the top of that list. We hope that this blog post will help to  inform your choices as you pursue a nursing career. 

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Nurse Residency: MHS Simulation Lab at the Memorial Training Center.

Nurse Residency: MHS Simulation Lab at the Memorial Training Center.

Back in December, we opened the new MHS Simulation Lab at the Memorial Training Center.
Our Nurse Residents from the November 2021 cohort had a great time helping us break it in, as did our Clinical Nurse Educators.

Thanks to generous support from the Memorial Healthcare System Foundation and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation, we’re already upgrading the Simulation Lab with advanced technology. New high-fidelity equipment will provide all clinical staff with an opportunity to receive hands-on training in a safe, effective learning environment.

The formal Grand Opening is slated for Spring 2022. Stay tuned for updates!

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RN Fellowship Blog

RN Fellowship Blog

Chastity Bartram, RN
Cohort 1 RN Fellow – MCI Infusion Center

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chastity Bartram, one of our very first RN Fellowship cohort nurses, to talk about her experiences with the program. Chastity has been a nurse for 10 years. She worked on a stepdown unit for four years and then a mother-baby unit for 5+ years before applying to our RN Fellowship for Oncology nursing.

Chastity was hired and serves as an Oncology nurse at the Memorial Cancer Institute Outpatient Infusion Center at Memorial Regional Hospital. She delivers compassionate and highly skilled care to our patients who require chemotherapy and other infusions. Here’s what she had to say about her opportunity here.

What made you come to work for Memorial?
“I heard so much about Memorial. I heard there were many opportunities for growth. That there
was research being done, lots of educational programs, and new ways to improve my nursing

What brought you to Oncology? Tell us what motivated you to make a change.
“When I was 10 years old, my grandmother would go for chemo. We would take the bus and I would sit outside the waiting room for hours. Afterward, I just wanted to care for her and make sure she was okay. I always thought that Oncology was a destiny of mine. Now that I’m in the specialty, it feels like it was meant to be.”

What do you enjoy most about the RN Fellowship program?
“It was an easy transition for me because I was doing something I always wanted to do. I got to learn everything at my own pace with the educational program.”

Tell us about your experience with your preceptor.
“Jennifer was my preceptor. She and the entire team were welcoming. Jennifer was always ready to teach me everything she knows. She is very knowledgeable and very friendly – always! She gave me compliments and positive feedback — or even criticism if necessary. She is very caring and honest person. I really enjoyed my experience with her.”

Anything else you would like to say about the program?
“It’s a very good program. Way more than I expected. I’ve learned so much and I can’t wait to learn even more about oncology. My patients are so inspirational and so strong. They are motivating for me. I really learn a lot from them. I learn a lot from my team too. The other nurses are helpful with any questions that I have. I really appreciate that and appreciate them. They make it so good to work here.”

Transitioning to a new practice area can be challenging … as well as very rewarding. The Memorial RN Fellowship Program offers you strong support, salary and benefits, and the opportunity to grow in your practice. For more information, go to https://careers.mhs.net/career-areas/rn-fellowship/

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Imagine Your Future in the RN Fellowship Program at one of the best places to work in healthcare.

The RN Fellowship Program offers an outstanding professional development opportunity for RNs wishing to grow in their careers by learning a new specialty practice. RN Fellowship positions are available in our adult hospitals for ICU, ER, OR, PACU, CVI/IR (Cath lab and interventional radiology), L&D, Oncology, and CVIMCU.

I am pleased to announce that beginning with our March 2022 Cohort, we are adding positions in our Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in the NICU, PICU, ER, and Pediatric Cath Lab!

We currently hire 3 cohorts a year – in 2022 the cohorts will start in March, July, and November. The March cohort has 80 positions available in the various specialties!

RN Fellowship Program requirements include:
● Experience: Minimum of 1 year hospital experience
● Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing preferred. ASN accepted with the provision that candidate be enrolled in an RN-BSN program by      end of the first year of employment
● Current License to practice as a Registered Nurse in the state of Florida(via Florida Board of Nursing or Nurse Compact licensure
● Current BLS and ACLS Provider cards
● Commitment: A 2-year commitment agreement as a full-time employee in your specialty area

The RN Fellowship Program provides specialty classroom training, simulation experiences, and hands-on clinical orientation with strong preceptor, educator, and leadership support. The program also features bimonthly seminars topics related to professional development in your specialty area. RN Fellows are given the opportunity to impact clinical practice by completing an evidence based practice project, which is presented at cohort graduation. After graduation, RN Fellows are encouraged to continue their professional journey in their specialty area by achieving specialty certification – this is supported by a complimentary specialty certification review course at the end of the program for all RN Fellowship graduates. Other benefits include tuition support for the RN-BSN degree, and eligibility for a program completion bonus.

Internal candidates who are interested in a specialty, especially our procedural areas such as OR, CVI/IR, PACU, are encouraged to speak with their Nurse Manager about shadowing a nurse on that unit to “walk in their shoes” and see if the unit is a right fit for them.

Detailed information on the RN Fellowship Program and a link to the application can be found on our Memorial Careers Page. Apply now for your dream job at https://careers.mhs.net/career-areas/rn-fellowship/

Please contact Valarie Grumme, PhD, RN, CCRN-K, Director – RN Fellowship Program at RNFellowship@mhs.net for any questions that you might have about the program!

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Leading with Trends in Nursing Education

Memorial Healthcare System is a destination for ambitious nurses who want to be part of a culture of learning and education. Our RNs practice at the top of their license receiving the support they need to excel within our professional nursing model. We are committed to growing the skill and knowledge of new nurses and experienced RNs alike.

“Residencies, fellowships, mentorships, and other newly emerging programs are a must to create the nursing leaders of tomorrow,” says Maggie Hansen, RN, MHSC, BSN, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Executive at Memorial. “Today’s practice environment is complex, with a continued influx of new technologies. We want our nurses to embrace advancements, including mobile devices, to maximize patient care and safety.”

“We’ve always known that nurses are flexible, agile and incredibly persistent. We need to leverage those attributes to shape the future of healthcare. That’s why we have created a Nurse Residency Program for graduate nurses, along with a RN Fellowship Program for experienced nurses who want to learn a new specialty. We’re also offering scholarships to nurses who are pursuing their BSN degree.”

All of these programs offer the potential for a rewarding career at Memorial, where retaining top nursing talent is of key importance. Leadership is always looking for new ways to invest in nurses, financially and otherwise.

“Supporting the resilience of our nurses in the face of personal and professional stress is a must,” says Hansen. “Working through COIVD-19 has impacted the mental health of caregivers around the world. We are committed to providing what RNs need to thrive post pandemic. That includes gratitude. And I, for one, thank all nurses for remaining committed to the profession.”

Nurses who want to work in a culture that promotes smarter healthcare are encouraged to apply online. Memorial is where you can practice at the top of your license … and grow as far as you want.


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Professional Development Programs for RNs

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the nursing profession in many ways. If anything, good nurses are in greater demand than ever before. RNs – whether entry-level or experienced – have their choice of opportunities. So, why choose Memorial?

“We are making education and professional growth key components of our offering to nurses and nurses-to-be,” says Valarie Grumme, PhD, RN, CCRN-K, Nurse Fellowship Program Director at Memorial. “It is how we will attract, retain and grow talented nurses for challenging specialties.” Memorial’s approach is three-fold, with opportunities for nursing students, new graduates and experienced nurses alike.

“We’re offering scholarships to top-performing nursing students who are pursuing a BSN degree,” explains Grumme. “Academic partnerships enable students to gain valuable clinical experience in a variety of departments at Memorial. They also have socialization experiences, working with nursing leaders and immersing themselves into our culture.”

For new nurses, Memorial offers a Nurse Residency Program. This is a one-year transitional program to teach evidence-based clinical knowledge and critical thinking, along with interpersonal skills, time management and other soft skills.

We are also excited to be starting our second RN Fellowship Program cohort in December 2021. Nurses with at least one year of experience will be learning how to advance their careers in Critical Care, Emergency Services, Oncology, L&D, OR, PACU, and CVI/IR.

The program includes a specialty orientation, simulation training, hands-on practice, bi-monthly seminars and more. Nurses will also have the opportunity to complete an evidence-based practice project and participate in a specialty certification review course before sitting for exams. Additional cohorts will be scheduled for 2022, with new tracks to be determined based on the organization’s needs. Applications open August 9th.

All programs are supported by a team of accomplished CNOs, Directors of Education, and Clinical Nurse Educators at each Memorial hospital location. “This focus on employee growth and development is also key to retaining our own high-quality workforce,” says Grumme. “Our leaders are creative in their approach to identifying and recruiting the best nurses … as well as keeping them here.”

Explore Memorial’s educational programs, as well as opportunities for experienced nurses who want to join a smart, fast, high-tech culture.


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Nursing in the time of COVID-19

Leadership insights on collaborative care and what lies ahead.

Alberto Garcia, Chief Nursing Officer at Memorial Hospital Miramar, joined Memorial Healthcare System during the last two weeks of 2019. “I was just starting here at a nice quiet community hospital. Then, all of a sudden, we’re like ground zero for the pandemic,” he says.

“We were prepared for the pandemic in terms of our emergency management plan, so we always had plenty of PPE and other supplies,” Garcia continues. “But no one could have anticipated the demand we have for hospital-based nurses, specifically in critical care. I feel like we’ve learned a lot, we’ll be in even better shape in the future.”

Building interdisciplinary relationships at the bedside.

One of the things that COVID-19 demonstrated to Garcia was the collaboration inherent to the relationship between nursing and respiratory therapy. “The two have always worked hand-in-hand,” he says. “That part is no different, but to witness the level of teamwork required now is a great thing. Everyone quickly realized that no one is on an island. We must take a collaborative approach.”

He went on to explain how caring for a COVID-19 patient requires four to five people. The respiratory therapist takes the lead in ventilator management, while nursing runs and coordinates the whole process. “It takes a lot of skill and strong communication,” adds Garcia. “It also takes compassion and the willingness to not let the stress get to you.”

“We all really appreciate each other and the small acts of kindness that are helping to get us through these hard times. If there was ever a time that respiratory was underappreciated, that is no longer the case. They play such a valuable and integral role on our team.”

Catching up on clinical education.

Garcia is a board member on the South Florida Nursing Consortium. The group has significant goals for building the pipeline of future nurses by introducing the profession to high school students. One of things stressed by the Consortium is the level of technology used in nursing today, as way to compete with other desirable careers.

The group also faced the challenges that were presented when new graduates were leaving nursing school without being able to do their clinicals, due to the pandemic. Fortunately, preceptorships and other in-hospital experiences for student nurses have restarted. Memorial Healthcare System has also ramped up its Nurse Residency Program for new graduates. Garcia leads the program at Memorial Hospital Miramar.

“We will have the largest ever number of nurse residents in our March 2021 cohort. I will have 25 at my facility, which is one of the smallest in the System,” he says. “We are in good standing with our model. We are able to engage new talent as one of the best employers in the area. We have a positive reputation for our good working environment.”

Garcia also looks forward to a new program that will train experienced nurses for in-demand specialties. “It will be an exciting opportunity for nurses who are curious about changing their path,” he explains. “We will give them the structure to gain advanced skills. We’re still working out the details, but we’ll be announcing it soon.”

Incentivizing top nursing talent.

Garcia took a vested interest in what is going on with each and every nurse on his team. “We try to meet any special needs, including leave time during the pandemic. We communicate constantly, so everyone knows that we are working together with the same goal and focus.”

Memorial has raised its sign-on bonus for hard-to-fill nursing positions. There is also a generous bonus for working extra shifts, along with a program that offers a completion bonus if nurses commit to a specific workload for 12 weeks. That’s in addition to the shift bonus. Referral bonuses are also available to non-nursing team members who successfully refer qualified RNs.

Find your place.

Memorial Healthcare System is a top destination for nurses who want to live a great community and practice at the top of their license at any of our six hospitals. Learn more when you apply online today.

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Meet Richardson Joseph

Oncology RN and Nurse Residency Program Graduate

Richardson Joseph, RN, BSN, began his journey to a nursing career many years ago. He was introduced to Memorial Healthcare System as a high schooler who visited the ER for medical care. Even at that early age, he was impressed at how well he was treated as a patient.

Richardson soon went off to college, playing soccer at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. During his time there, however, his mother became ill. He made the decision to move back to South Florida. A short time later, he found himself admitted to Memorial Hospital West. It was there that he met a male nurse for the first time. It was a surprise to him that men could be nurses.

This nurse, Jermaine, talked to him about pursuing a nursing career. “He educated me as to what nursing is. He told me that it was about being a caregiver and a caretaker,” Richardson recalls. “He explained nursing to me in a way I could understand as a young athlete. That it is a team activity, and you have to train hard to be a starter. He allowed me to see myself as someone I was inspired to become. I still keep in touch with him today.”

Richardson had intended to continue on with his college athletic career after coming back to Florida, but instead made the decision to go to nursing school. He enrolled, received a scholarship from Memorial, and did his some of clinicals here. Soon, he started interviewing and joined our Nurse Residency Program in late 2018.

“Being at Memorial has been great for me,” says Richardson. “You have to come in with an open mind and want to grow. The Nurse Residency Program is going to stretch you, stretch your mind. You will see what you learned in nursing school come to life. This Program is here to groom you, to help you understand who you can become.”

“I looked at all of the other local residency programs,” he continues. “But I picked Memorial for the leadership and guidance I would receive. Not only are you being exposed to different units, but you are also being mentored and cross-trained. You work with specialty veterans and they want you to ask questions and learn from them. You gain your ‘nursing instinct’ and learn to trust your clinical judgment.”

Richardson chose to specialize in oncology because of the prevalence of cancer in his own family. He sees it as a way to serve the next generation and understand why certain cancers are so predominant in the African American community. “Each person I see on the oncology unit at Memorial Regional Hospital is different,” he says. “My job is to be present for that person. And I learn from them. It’s like being in a library and every person is a book. They share stories and I soak in that information. I just feel honored to be in their presence.”

Aside from his nursing duties, Richardson also participates on the Nurse Residency Program Committee and the Curriculum Committee for the Program. He wants prospective nurse residents to know that the most important thing they can do is to believe in themselves.

“You have to believe in yourself. You did the groundwork; you have some knowledge. If you believe in yourself, other people start to believe in you too. They will give you more resources and opportunities. I am grateful to be someone from a small island, from Haiti, who has a voice at Memorial and has been so welcomed here.”

You can create your own story at Memorial too. Applications for the next cohort of our Nurse Residency Program will be open from November 19 to December 4, 2020. See how you can join us.

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The Memorial Nurse Residency Program

A Bridge Between Academia and the Real World

That’s how Anthony G. Gonzalez, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, Director – Nurse Residency Program describes the Program – as a bridge to the future.

“Just like any bridge, they are all designed differently,” explains Anthony. “Our bridge is based on three key elements – structure, synergy and engagement. These elements are built into our mission statement for the Program.”

The first element of structure sets written goals and clear expectations for nurse residents. The next piece, synergy, focuses on group cohesion, which gives the residents a support system where they can benefit from each other’s growth and experiences. The final element is engagement and a feeling of belonging to something special.

“Our culture has a strong passion for growth,” says Anthony. “One of the main characteristics I look for in any prospective candidate is that desire to grow. I look for somebody who is willing to make an investment in themselves. A proactive learner who wants new experiences and sees mistakes as learning opportunities.”

Anthony’s own experience is a product of this culture, which is hallmarked by clinicians who always want to do better and do more. “I started my own nursing career here, as an ICU nurse at Memorial Hospital West,” he says. “I left and then came back as a nurse educator for Memorial Hospital Pembroke. In 2018, I was offered this opportunity to become the systemwide director for our Nurse Residency Program.”

What makes the Memorial Nurse Residency Program truly unique is that Anthony and the other leaders understand that no two nurse graduates are alike. “We take the individual into consideration when supporting them through this transition,” he explains. “Each nurse creates a learner profile that outlines their clinical experiences as a student and asks what their learning preferences and expectations are. It gives us a better perspective in providing a personalized onboarding experience.”

Curriculum is also designed to reflect the nurses’ needs at different points of the Program. Early on, nurses learn about care coordination and delivery, which includes time management, professional communication, prioritizing and delegating.

Content on resiliency is shared at the six-month mark when nurses are the most challenged in their new career. Memorial makes the effort to reinvigorate and remotivate their nurse residents to continue on toward their goals. Then, at the tail end of the Program, nurses have an opportunity to focus on professional growth. They learn about Memorial’s clinical ladder and specialty certifications, as well as how to network and advance throughout the organization.

Anthony believes that nurse residents can provide a fresh perspective to the System, as well. “During our evidence-based projects, I like to tell them that it is an opportunity to ‘sell their passion.’ They can offer new and innovative ideas, but they need to have the evidence to back it up and be able to sell their thinking. I always use the mantra ‘sell your passion,’ which gives them the enthusiasm to make a significant impact.”

Most of all, Anthony wants nurses to choose the Nurse Residency Program that is right for them. “It’s important to make an informed decision and gather all the facts. You are going to be investing your time, energy and commitment to an organization that is going to commit to you in return. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to see which Program is going best meet your personal goals for success. If Memorial is the best fit, we will do everything we can to support you.”

Applications for the March 2021 Nurse Residency Program cohort open on November 19, 2020. Learn more about the requirements and application process now.


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Happy Nurses Week!

Happy Nurses Week!

As we celebrate another Nurses Week this year, we take deep pride in the fact that for 18 consecutive years, nurses have ranked as the most trusted professionals in America. From what I have had the privilege of witnessing, this is especially true of the nurses here in the Memorial Healthcare System. Ethics and honesty drive the wonderful care that is provided to our patients and families, and the results have simply been superb. This year was extra special as we celebrated the honor of receiving the highest award for quality bestowed by the Florida Hospital Association for the exemplary MHS Nursing Strategic Plan, which has been put into operation so effectively that the nursing sensitive outcomes produced as a result are second to none. Our team rocks. Our patients benefit.

The theme of this year’s Nurses Week: “Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Nursing the World to Health” is more appropriate than ever. It will be a memorable year. Nurses are literally impacting millions of lives across the world as the COVID-19 virus wreaks its havoc. At the center of care for those seriously affected are the nursing professionals who must maintain a prolonged physical and emotional closeness with their patients at a time the world at large must practice social distancing. While most current conversations are filled with references to having no guide, playbook, or roadmap to address the crisis, nurses have quickly adapted their scientific knowledge and their art of compassion in different ways to meet the needs of those entrusted to their care. They are creating the guide and writing history that will beneficially impact nursing care in the future.

And yet, even with all the hardship thrust upon them, these unprecedented times have not stopped our nurses from quickly adjusting or reshaping the basic tenets of their practice known to produce healing and reduce unnecessary suffering. We see evidence of nurses’ adaptability and perseverance everywhere we turn. In the ICUs for example, nurses now carefully thread the high touch, high tech equipment through a patient’s door to reduce the risk of viral spread. Nurses are also deploying and troubleshooting technological innovations to counter and work around the patient visitation restrictions, to continue facilitating much-needed family and social connections. They celebrate their patients’ milestone achievements in full personal protective gear with as much enthusiasm as they did in easier times.

Just as importantly, nurses also extend care to each other by weaving humor into their workflow in order to lift each other’s spirits and keep everyone in flight. They volunteer to step out of their comfort zones to help their sisters and brothers in hospitals across the healthcare system. There is simply no challenge too large for Memorial Nurses to overcome.

This year we will collect special memories, on which we will surely reflect for many years in the future. We are blessed with the best nurses, the best epidemiologists, and the best resources to be able to see the blue sky ahead through the clouds of our current situation. I am forever grateful to have the privilege of being a nurse on your team, the Memorial Team, and for the opportunity to witness your selfless dedication to our patients, our families, and to each other.

Happy Nurses Week 2020!

With Pride, Hope, and Gratitude,