IndustryDeveloped by nurses at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Versant provides a residency program that transitions new graduate nurses from the novice student role to competent and confident professional clinicians. Instead of the traditional six-to-eight week orientation that newly graduated nurses typically receive, the Versant RN Residency provides an 18-week, guided clinical experience, customized classroom curriculum, formal mentoring and self-care sessions, as well as hands-on lab time for skill development.
The national nursing shortage is expected to balloon to more one million nurses by 2020, right at the time that our aging population will need medical care the most. The biggest reason for the nursing crisis is the high turnover rate among new RNs, many of whom are thrown into hospitals with little direct supervision and are expected to juggle multiple patients and make critical decisions for the first time in their careers. As a result, hospitals are losing between 35 and 60 percent of their new nurse workforce within their first 12 months on the hospital floor.
Versant partnered with Schwartz in February 2006 to help build awareness of how the Versant RN Residency directly combats the problem of high turnover rates among new nurses. Versant faced challenging competitors such as hospitals’ own internal residency programs, which some institutions were hesitant to give up, as well as hospital administrators unwilling to pay for a new program.
Schwartz PR Strategy
Schwartz initiated a three-pronged media relations campaign that targeted professional nursing trade magazines to directly reach the critical audience of Chief Nursing Officers—the purchasing decision-makers, national business and consumer media, and a grassroots campaign to raise local awareness of the residency program. Schwartz developed hard-hitting messaging that clearly articulates the problem—the high turnover rate of new nurses is causing a national nursing shortage—and the solution: hospitals that implement the Versant RN Residency are able to dramatically reduce new RN turnover rates.
In order to underscore the benefits of the Versant RN Residency, the first order of business was to identify referenceable Chief Nursing Officers and residents who took part in the program and could clearly articulate the benefits they recognized after implementing the residency program to the news media. In addition, whenever possible, Schwartz would work with individual hospitals to uncover valuable ROI that could be shared with the media. For instance, in working with one hospital, Schwartz learned that it was able to reduce nursing turnover rates from 22 percent to 10 percent in the 18 months since it started its program. Stats like this were valuable in piquing the interest of the news media.
Results to date have been outstanding. Schwartz developed strong relationships with key editors at the most important professional nursing magazines and secured bylined and feature articles on the nursing shortage and the benefits of a residency program. Versant has become a mainstay in the key professional trade nursing magazines, with reporters now often calling Schwartz requesting interviews with Versant executives. On the local level, Schwartz works closely with hospitals to secure stand-alone stories on TV news programs and newspapers that highlight graduations and the highly trained graduates armed with the necessary skills and confidence to begin treating their own patients.
To supplement coverage in important local markets, Schwartz aimed to secure a strategic item of national news coverage. The agency selected the Associated Press as the number one target based on its broad reach and influence.
Beginning in December 2007, Schwartz contacted numerous reporters across the country at this influential wire service. Despite months of phones calls and emails, it was not until we connected with a reporter in the DelRay, Florida, AP bureau that we started making headway. While the reporter was not interested in covering a local residency graduation, he recommended the story to a Miami-based national reporter whom Schwartz had already contacted. Encouraged by her coworker’s recommendation and Schwartz’s simultaneous pitch, she expressed interest in the larger story of how hospitals are implementing residency programs to combat the growing nursing shortage.
Schwartz worked closely with the reporter, providing her with information about the Versant RN Residency and the nursing shortage. She spoke with an RN Resident taking part in the program and the hospital executives who launched the Residency at a local hospital.
The results were worth the wait. The in-depth article, which appeared about a year after our initial pitching begin, featured branded information on how hospitals are adopting the Versant RN Residency to help reduce nursing turnover. A nurse who was taking part in the Residency was quoted and featured in an accompanying photo essay. The article, “Facing a nursing shortage, hospitals seek to retain new nurses by easing transition,” was pickup up by more than 100 news outlets, including USA Today, Forbes, The New York Times and top daily papers across the country, yielding more than 153 million impressions. The client was thrilled, as expressed in a note saying: “This is a bit of a milestone for Versant and reflects moving to the next level for us to get an AP story that was picked up nationally by so many widely read publications.”