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On the Academic Frontline: SON and SMH Develop Refresher Course for Nurses Re-Entering the Workforce

  By Ivy Burruto
  Tuesday, April 14, 2020

COVID-19 has created a ripple effect that can be felt in every corner of the world and area of life. These ripples have hit hospitals like tsunamis as potential shortages in resources may soon be matched by a depletion of caregivers.

At the highest risk of this shortage are nurses. Nurses are integral to every facet of care from patient screening, to triage, to critical care. In addition to direct care roles, nurses are lending their expertise in a variety of other ways to support the medical center’s pandemic response as well. They’re obtaining samples, drawing blood, and meeting patients’ needs while maintaining their own and others’ safety through the use of personal protective equipment.

With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, a scarcity of nurses is not an option.

To combat the shortage, University of Rochester Medical Center’s Chief Nursing Executive Karen K. Davis, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, Strong Memorial Hospital, and experts at the University of Rochester School of Nursing teamed up to create a refresher course for nurses re-entering the workforce.

Learners will be a combination of registered nurse retirees and nurses who are not currently employed in a patient care setting.

While re-entry courses are not new, this course deviates from the traditional format as it prepares registered nurses to provide essential care using adapted standards under extreme conditions.

Course candidates will participate in a screening intake process through Strong Memorial Hospital’s Nursing Recruitment office. Once screening is complete, Senior Director of Learning and Development Stephanie Von Bacho, MS, RN, will pair nurses to affiliates within the URMC system on an as-needed basis. Then, participants will enroll through the School of Nursing with a click of a link. There is no cost to participants.

According to Director of Clinical Scholarship/Assistant Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, Susan Ciurzynski, PhD, RN, NPD-BC, PNP, VCE, FNAP, who led this effort, the course will be hosted on Desire to Learn (D2L)’s Brightspace educational platform and consist of six asynchronous, self-paced, complete online modules containing readings, videos, podcasts, interactive activities, and opportunities to test learners’ knowledge.

The course can be completed in as little as one day and prepares the nurse with the cognitive knowledge, self-care skills, and available resources necessary to re-enter the workforce at this unprecedented time. Upon completing all six modules, students will receive a certificate of completion from the UR School of Nursing and begin the onboarding process at their assigned facility.

Specialty Director for the Master’s Program in Nursing Education, Maria A. Marconi, EdD, RN, CNE, with the help of several master’s in nursing education students, designed the course so nurses will be functioning members of a team in a direct patient care environment.

Interim Director for the Center for Lifelong Learning Tara Serwetnyk, MS, RN, NPD-BC, Instructional Design Associate Nadine Taylor, and Education Innovation Coordinator Joseph Gomulak-Cavicchio, EdD, MSEd, offered additional instructional support for the course to be interactive, engaging, and feasible in an online forum.

The course went through pilot-testing by a few master’s in nursing education (MNE) students—who also contributed to some of the course content under guidance of Marconi— and was successful thanks to the outstanding IT efforts of Service Manager Larry Palumbos and School of Nursing’s Director of Information Technology Brian Harrington. Of particular note was the assistance provided by Jake Heimpel, senior account executive of D2L Corporation, who shared, “I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing effort to re-educate nurses and help meet the needs of the community.”

“I feel incredibly privileged and humbled by the mobilization of our faculty, staff, and students, and their ability to be so facile under such duress,” said Lydia Rotondo, DNP, RN, CNS, FNAP, Associate Dean, Education and Student Affairs on the school’s swift efforts to create the course, “The extraordinary teamwork to support the medical center’s pandemic response inspires me to work as hard as I can every day to support their ongoing work to partner with practice colleagues to meet future needs.”

Going forward, the number of nurses enrolled in the course will be demand-dependent. Creators of the program anticipate five to 10 students re-entering each hospital, and then eventually around 300 nurses across the URMC system. Recruitment may open to alumni and the public based on the system’s needs.

Those interested in the re-entry course entitled, Nurses STAT! are welcome to contact the Nursing Recruitment Office at (585) 275-3478 or

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