Officials have hired two students at Arkansas Children’s Northwest hospital, which opened late last month, but the hospital has not received many applications from the UofA, said the Human Resources director for the hospital.
Hospital officials hired 254 employees, but about 40 positions are open as of March 6, said HR director Laura Spies. The hospital hired one of the students as a patient information assistant and the other as a clinical support assistant position. Both students will graduate in 2019.
“We haven’t had many applications, to be honest, from the UofA. Most of our positions require specific work experience, which new grads may not have,” Spies said.
Spies is uncertain why UA nursing graduates would not apply for positions at the hospital, other than the fact that officials are looking for qualified nurses with experience, she said.
The majority of full-time positions are filled, but some part-time jobs, including part-time admissions jobs, are still available, Spies said. Admissions officials check in patients, gather insurance payments and other information.
“We have a pharmacist position, a pharmacist C-tech position and a laboratory assistant position [open]. So just kind of a handful of positions right now,” Spies said.
Arkansas Children’s hospital is a nonprofit, and officials are making sure they are careful with money because it is self-sustaining, which results in the small number of employees relative to the number of patients, Spies said.
Hospital officials will consider hiring more college graduates who have little experience once the hospital grows, Spies said. Officials are not able to train someone who has no work experience because the children’s hospital is still new.
“We, especially as we’re opening the hospital, are wanting people who have previous experience because we have a very lean staff,” Spies said.
Hospital officials are still interested in UA graduates despite the lack of applications and hires, Spies said.
Hospital officials want to hire more nurses, Spies said. Officials with the Arkansas Children’s hospital in Little Rock work jobs involving accounting or financial aspects for the hospital in Northwest Arkansas. The new children’s hospital is a part of the medical system based in Little Rock.
Leslie Taylor, the vice chancellor for the UofA for Medical Sciences’ Office of Communications, does not think the new children’s hospital will take away from the pool of qualified medical professionals, including nurses, she said in an email.
“We believe that having the children’s hospital, UAMS’ Northwest campus and the UofA all in close proximity is ideal for improving health and attracting new doctors,” Taylor said.
UAMS officials have cut 724 positions since January, though many were unfilled positions, Taylor said. UAMS officials are still interested in hiring nurses.
The Arkansas Children’s hospital in Little Rock has been the pediatric teaching affiliate of UAMS for more than 30 years, and UAMS will extend its affiliation to the new hospital, Taylor said. Future pediatricians at UAMS are trained at the children’s hospital. Some physicians and subspecialists that work at the children’s hospital are UAMS employees.
Northwest Arkansas is a quickly growing region in Arkansas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, which is why UAMS opened a regional campus in the area, Taylor said.
“We consider Northwest Arkansas a key region of the state and are working to do our part to not only increase the number of health care professionals practicing there but to improve health and healthcare there as well,” Taylor said.
UAMS officials are recruiting nurses for their hospital through social media and through job fairs, Taylor said.
Spies thinks that because the hospital is the only pediatric hospital in Northwest Arkansas, medical personnel who want to work in pediatrics will be drawn there, she said.
“We offer competitive wages and benefits, and we strive to make our hospital a workplace of choice to attract and retain employees,” Spies said. “We will work closely with area schools to recruit their students to be a part of our hospital.”
People working at the hospital have standard benefits, such as dental or vision plans, and they have the chance to earn an annual bonus, Spies said. There is also tuition reimbursement available for workers.
“It’s great for a lot of our staff that have a two-year degree when they start, go on and complete their four-year degree, and they use tuition reimbursement,” Spies said. “Full-time employees can be reimbursed for college tuition up to $4,000 per year, and part-time employees can be reimbursed up to $2,000 per year.”
Junior nursing student Spencer Shreeve thinks the hospital opening is a step forward for health care in Northwest Arkansas, she said.
“I have heard many cases of children having to be med-flighted from this region down to Little Rock for treatment, adding new stress to families and new complications to care,” Shreeve said. “The new hospital will decrease these issues exponentially and, in my opinion, become a highly valued resource for this part of the state.”
Shreeve is not certain about her future, but working at the hospital is a possibility for her, she said. She feels at home in Fayetteville, and she knows the community, which entices her to stay in Northwest Arkansas.
“I love children and have a huge passion for nursing, so of course working in pediatrics has crossed my mind,” Shreeve said. “The Arkansas Children’s hospital in Little Rock is such a phenomenal establishment, so to work at a new branch and help it reach its full potential would be amazing. If I do stay in Northwest Arkansas, the hospital would be at the top of my interest list.”