Nursing majors Lindsay Brady and Kendall Frenkel practice taking vital signs on a manakin.

Nursing students are on the hunt for full-time hospital jobs, but the stakes are higher for employers than students. The shortage of registered nurses in the U.S. means hospitals need to not only hire more nurses but keep them engaged.

Nationally, about 17 percent of newly registered nurses leave their unit after a year.

Nurses coming and going can cause some frustration in a hospital staff, said Jessica McNeil, a clinical educator at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Understaffed hospitals hurt care quality as overworked nurses are pushed to maintain patients.

It’s also expensive. McNeil said training replacements costs a minimum of $10,000 and takes time, depending on whether that nurse is experienced.

Nurses switch units frequently, McNeil said, depending on what they want to explore in their careers. Many transfer to specialized areas after they’ve had a year’s experience for qualification.

“The hospital needs them more than they need the hospital,” McNeil said.

Incentives like career advancements to professional practices, according to Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow, are used to keep nurses satisfied with their jobs.

UT Southwestern emphasizes opportunities of career advancement within the hospital to keep their nurses, McNeil said. Financial benefits are similar in DFW hospitals for newly registered nurses, so they aren’t the main selling point.

McNeil said they also focus on welcoming new nurses into a positive learning environment.

McNeil called UT Southwestern a “teaching hospital.” Hired nurses are mentored by experienced nurses and take unit-specialized classes in the hospital.

Their programs, she said, give their new nurses a shoulder to lean on. Mentors not only educate, but support them as they adjust to the workflow and patient responsibilities.

“Teaching hospitals are a big deal for new nurses,” said Harrison Hummel, a senior nursing major.

Hummel said in lieu of the shortage, these hospitals are making a smart move by bringing in more qualified nurses and helping them grow into their units.

Hummel said it’s a triangle of focus that helps everyone.

“More and more teaching focus is a great asset for the hospital, for the nurse, and for the patient,” he said.

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