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Creation of innovative retention strategies is a major focus for nursing administration as a shortage of nurses recurs and turnover of staff becomes a problem. Retention strategies, to be effective, need to be targeted specifically to particular conditions of the nursing staff. The cardiac surgical intensive care unit (CSICU) at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center is a unique unit that combines adult, pediatric and neonatal cardiac surgical patients. This demands well-trained and skilled nurses to be able to look after this complex variety of patients. The big majority of nurses recruited to the CSICU have an adult educational background only. Therefore the Department of Nursing Development and Saudization together with Cardiovascular Nursing Department developed and implemented different education strategies to improve nurse's skills and competencies according to the unit's needs.
The strategies implemented included: comprehensive and periodic assessment of nurses, regular inservices in the form of lectures, skill review sessions, a progressive orientation program divided into different phases, bedside teaching, provision of a wide educational references, and professional development workshops.
In a survey done in 2006, from a database of 64 nurses, 18 (28%) had only adult experience. A total of 14/18 (78%) were unable to progress to pediatric care phase (PCP). Another survey in 2007 for a database of 68 nurses showed that 15 (22%) had only adult experience. Eight out of 15 (53%) could not progress to PCP. A third survey performed in 2008, for a database of 82 nurses, showed that 25 (30%) had adult experience. Six out of 25 (24%) were not able to progress to PCP.
Implementing comprehensive education strategies targeting different approaches of training contributed to considerable progressive staff development and retention in the CSICU.