LABOR GAP: Medical recruiting

Hospital woos nurse practitioners, who find it isn’t the primitive place they feared

Brenda Calfe, center, a nurse from the Bronx, and others check out Adirondack Medical Center’s new building plans as they are presented by Matt Scollin, far right, on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

SARANAC LAKE — A health care association and advocacy group for health care practitioners brought a group of newly graduated and soon-to-graduate nurse practitioners (NPs) to Adirondack Medical Center to encourage them to apply for work here.

According to Joanne Johnson, director of physician recruitment for AMC, there’s a primary care practitioner shortage nationwide, leading hospitals to compete for nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants and doctors.

“We are always recruiting for primary care,” said Johnson. Tupper Lake’s mayor, Paul Maroun, joined the tour to welcome potential recruits, as did State Assemblyman Billy Jones of Chateaugay.

Iroquois Healthcare Association, which sponsored the tour, brought many of the prospective NPs from downstate. The tour visited facilities in the Capital Region and the Adirondacks.

Many of the visiting NPs were new to Upstate.

A group of new nurse practitioners (and one physician’s assistant) from downstate tour Adirondack Medical Center Friday as the hospital tries to recruit them. From left are Shanti Marshall, Mariya Canham, Jennifer Poste, Regina Face, Lorraine Glaves, Julia Mason, Karen Bedell, Monica Detomas, Brenda Calfe and Tammy Walrath. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

Brenda Calfe has been a practicing nurse for three decades and is only five classes away from completing her nurse practitioner course. She worked at a large, busy hospital, Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Under the Mount Saint Mary College program, she has been studying to become an NP in the Hudson Valley.

“I thought I already was in Upstate,” said Calfe.

Calfe said she was favorably impressed by the tour. “What we hear is different from what we observe,” she said. The hospital’s new facilities, spacious patient rooms with views of Lake Colby, and many other details came as a surprise to those who expected primitive facilities.

Amelia Trigg of IHA said many of the visitors were pleased to see computers in every exam room, for instance.

Several of the nurse practitioners said what they are looking for is mentorship. A nurse practitioner, unlike a doctor, doesn’t complete a residency before becoming licensed, so many want hands-on practice under the guidance of another primary care practitioner before they feel safe practicing on their own.

Construction is underway at Adirondack Medical Center, including on a new surgical wing. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

“We’ve heard horror stories,” said Julia Mason. “We have NPs that graduated a few months before us and have left practice already.

“We’ve heard new NPs are afraid to practice because of the lack of mentorship,” said Shanti Marshall.

Dr. Anthony Tramontano, who heads cardiology at AMC, admitted that all primary care practitioners are feeling stretched. “I see 18 patients a day,” he said.

Tramontano, originally from Long Island, had good things to say about AMC. “Administration really supports the practitioners, which as you all know is not the case in a lot of places.”

“I think a lot of you would fit in well in a small hospital,” Tramontano said. “If you’re bringing experience up here you can really thrive.”

Tramontano and Sara Crystal, who just completed her doctorate in nursing practice, sat down with the potential recruits to answer questions.

Crystal said, “You can make a really great impact here; you’re a member of the community here.

“I’ve really enjoyed working in rural health care,” said Crystal. “After work I’m heading to a campsite on Lower Saranac Lake.”

At least one potential recruit was excited about the prospect of living in the mountains and said she would come back up for the opportunity to hike.

Hospital CEO Sylvia Getman also made a pitch to the potential recruits. “We can lead from rural health care,” she said. “I believe that passionately. This is a remarkable organization. We’re proud of our star ratings — we just got a four-star rating for CMS [Centers for Medicare] and a five-star rating for patient satisfaction. We have a remarkable nursing corps, for which we just got Pathway to Excellence Certification, an honor only given to 160 hospitals in the entire country.”

Maroun emphasized the respect people have locally for medical professionals, and Billy Jones added his encouragement. “One thing you’ll notice here is how valued you are.”

Calfe said the tour was very interesting. “I think they set out to impress us, and they did. Retention is big here. I think you’ll get some takers.”

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