It’s National Nurses Week and what better time to learn more about our nurses and nursing opportunities at SMC.
The following is a one-on-one with Chief Nursing Officer Ekene Ejimofor, DNP, MSHCM, RN. Before coming to SMC about a year ago, Dr. Ejimofor served as a nurse director at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital — a 960-bed facility in New Brunswick, NJ.
SMC News: Why is National Nurses Week even more important this year?
Dr. Ejimofor: Nurses Week gives me and our entire team the opportunity to show our nurses how much we appreciate all they do. This past year has been extremely difficult on our nursing staff, but they have performed like the professionals they are. Our nurses are committed, caring and skilled. I’m very proud of the daily work they perform.
SMC News: Tell us a bit about the make-up of the nursing team.
Dr. Ejimofor: We currently have 180 nurses — 100 of which are RNs — working here in many different capacities. We have nurses who have been here for only one month to a few who have been here for nearly 50 years. There are ICU, ED, telemetry, behavioral health and OR nurses, but also nurses who work in specialties such as bariatrics, wound care, and cardiac rehabilitation.
SMC News: As you said earlier, the past year has been difficult. How has the team performed in the wake of a pandemic?
Dr. Ejimofor: Our COVID team has been amazing. Since the beginning of the year, our nurses have conducted COVID tests and administered vaccines to more than 10,000 people in our community. I can’t say enough about how hardworking and dedicated our nurses are. They have done so much for the community and I’m very proud of every single one of them. Not only do I recognize the work they do, but our community has, too. We have received an outpouring of letters and messages from patients expressing their thanks and praising the nurses for an organized and professional experience.
SMC News: You came to us from a large hospital in North Jersey. What are the differences and benefits for nurses to work in a smaller environment?
Dr. Ejimofor: There are many advantages of working in a small, community hospital. There are personal connections between the nurses and patients because many of the nurses live in the community they serve. This is also true for the connections between coworkers.
As for daily operations, a small hospital such as SMC doesn’t have the bureaucracy of a large facility. When the nurses need something, they don’t have to jump through hoops and go through numerous channels to get what they need. Everyone is involved and a decision can be made within minutes.
SMC News: As you work to build the program here, what are you striving for in your nursing team?
Dr. Ejimofor: Education and developing skill sets are of primary importance. Myself, along with AVP Justine Murphy, Kirsten Maritim (Director of Tele/MedSurg and ICU), the Nursing Education Department and all nursing directors, have challenged ourselves to establish an education program here that the nurses can use to broaden their horizons in nursing.
We recently implemented several programs to support our commitment to continuing education for our nurses. These programs are designed to enhance their knowledge and skill set. Offering these types of programs is also an incentive for us in recruiting nurses to SMC.
SMC News: How do these programs benefit our nurses?
Dr. Ejimofor: A great example is the Nursing Critical Care Course — a five-month program offered twice a year, with one class held each month. The course covers all aspects of critical care nursing and provides an avenue for them to transition into critical care by strengthening their skills.
Another opportunity is our Pathway to ICU program for nurses who are interested in working in the ICU. During the first period, candidates are placed on a telemetry unit. They transition to the ICU where they complete ICU orientation and shadow ICU nurses. The Pathway program is hands-on, allowing nurses to gain experience working in the Unit. This course includes the Critical Care Course and usually takes from six months to one year to complete.
By offering these courses, we strengthen our staff, assist nurses who want to broaden their specialties, and attract new nurses who are interested in coming to a hospital that offers opportunities to grow in their career.
SMC News: When nurses first come on staff, it’s important for them to have support. What do we offer to help our new nurses?
Dr. Ejimofor: We have established a Nursing Mentorship Program. This provides support for new nurses directly from experienced nurses. It also gives experienced nurses an avenue to share their knowledge with new nurses. The program builds relationships and grows a strong nursing staff.
SMC News: In addition to ICU and Critical Care nursing, what other nursing opportunities are available at SMC?
Dr. Ejimofor: We have many areas of nursing specialties.
We recently began offering behavioral health services which opens up an entirely new world of nursing for those interested in working in this field.
Services such as bariatric surgery, wound care, and cardiac rehabilitation are additional areas that provide opportunities for growth within our team of nurses.
SMC News: If you could speak with each nurse on your team, what would you want them to know?
Dr. Ejimofor: I want them all to know that I know from experience that their jobs are not easy. Nursing can mean long hours; nursing can mean stress; nursing can be emotionally draining. But most of all, nursing is rewarding. And I am rewarded each day that I get to work with the SMC Nursing team.