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Harris Health System, Lone Star College Partner to Address Severe Nursing Shortage

HOUSTON (Oct. 27, 2021) — Harris Health System has partnered with Lone Star College’s Nursing Program to help alleviate its staffing shortage, hiring student nurses as nurse technicians. The severe shortage of nurses has been evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its multiple surges.

The educational partner program allows first- and second-year nursing students at the college to get jobs at Harris Health’s Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson hospitals.

The nursing students joined Harris Health in September as nurse techs, where they care for non-COVID patients and perform duties similar to patient care assistants and patient sitters.

“During a time when the need for nurses has never been greater, we’re committed to creating professional pathways to ensure future nurses are ready to meet the needs of our patients,” says Jackie Brock, executive vice president and chief nursing executive, Harris Health.

Gilbert Medrano, director, Clinical Resource Support Services, LBJ Hospital, says the great thing about hiring the students as nurse techs is it not only helps with staffing, but gives them exposure to working with patients in a unit.

“They get to see how a unit functions, work on their time management skills and learn how to assess patients and take care of a patient’s daily living activities,” he says.

Jennifer Beaver is one of the eight students already hired from Lone Star College. While she originally wanted to be a teacher, after years of caring for ill family members, she knew her true calling was becoming a nurse.

“I’ve seen firsthand how important it is for patients to have someone who genuinely cares for them,” she says. “It makes such a huge difference in someone’s life being their advocate during their worst time and I want to be that person.”

Beaver is thankful for the new partnership. 

“I’m looking forward to gaining experience and working with our community—it’s where my heart is,” she says. “Being able to rotate through all the departments is an incredible opportunity. I love working with people and hope I will be able to make a small difference in someone’s day.”

All nurses start their orientation and training on designated nursing units. Once they gain confidence and meet job skills necessary for the position, they are able to work on units that need additional staff at either Ben Taub or LBJ hospitals.

The new nurse technicians work one to two shifts a month. During school breaks, they can work more shifts depending on their schedules.

“During COVID, these students weren’t able to gain experience, now they are. Our hope is to introduce them to our system, develop and grow them,” says Xyrene Sayama, nurse manager, Clinical Resources and Support Services, LBJ Hospital. “We would love for them to stay with Harris Health throughout their nursing career.”