While employment opportunities in Harlan County are bleak in the wake of a severe contraction in the coal industry, not all new jobs have left town. Healthcare continues to be a viable option for families who wish to live and work in the region.
Several employers continue to identify and recruit nurses and others to meet the growing demands of an aging local population.
Harlan ARH Hospital, the largest employer of health workers in the area, is sponsoring a “Registered Nurse Job Fair” in order to share information on the future prospects and immediate opportunities for nurses here.
The job fair will be held Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the hospital’s One West Conference Room. Representatives from nursing departments and human resources will be available to meet with nurses, students and interested individuals.
Current job opportunities exist in Harlan for both full-time and part-time nursing staff. There are also sign-on bonuses and increased pay for nights, weekends and holidays.
Eva “Dee” Hughes, RN, the hospital’s chief nursing officer, has designed the event to serve the needs of prospective nursing staff and those in school who are still learning what she calls, “the art of nursing.”
“In my years as a college nursing instructor, one of the greatest needs I saw was for my graduates to have enough information about workplaces like hospitals so they could make the best choice for them as to where they wanted to work,” Hughes said.
“In my brief time now leading the nursing staff at the hospital, one of my priorities has been to work with all our nurses and the administrative team here so that we succeed in bringing new people on board,” she said. “We strive to introduce them in such a way that they will know what to expect and quickly believe they can fulfill their professional desires here.
“The sooner they can contribute, respect and care for one another as professionals, the more satisfied they will be and the better care they will provide to our patients.”
Hospital CEO Donnie Fields, the nursing unit managers and nursing administration staff make regular rounds of nursing schools all across the region to identify the best candidates for available local positions.
In addition to meeting with students in the programs of Southeast KCTCS, which thus far has seen an increase in enrollment over last year, the recruitment team has taken journeys to the nursing education and training programs at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, Mountain Empire and Clinch Valley community colleges in Virginia and Union College in Barbourville.
In addition to registered nurses, Harlan ARH has recently opened up opportunities for RN students to work as “nurse externs” where they have the opportunity to select the days, units and shifts they prefer to work. These jobs broaden their hospital experience by allowing them the flexibility to experience their areas of interest, Hughes said.
In addition to their clinical training rounds during their time as a student, working as one of these student nurses involves additional hands-on training with an experienced nurse and familiarizes them with the day-to-day routines of the units and the caregivers who work there.
“The idea is to offer students a supportive environment that will ease the transition from nursing school to nursing practice,” Hughes said.
“In this way we can continue to teach students in ways the schools really cannot, such as how to prioritize their skills in an actual work setting,” she added. “This enhances their professional communication skills and, whether they wind up coming to work at Harlan or not, it gives them a competitive edge in the labor market.”