ChristianaCare strives  to be the employer of choice for nurses

Jennifer Painter

It would be no exaggeration to describe  nurses as the “beating heart” of ChristianaCare.

After all, the nursing staff at the northern Delaware-based  health care provider numbers 4,000 equal to the total headcount  at Dover-based Bayhealth, the state’s second largest health care system. ChristianaCare employs about 12,000, with that figure growing  past 13,000 with the recent merger with the parent of Elkton’s Union Hospital.

While ChristianaCare has been able  to meet nurse staffing needs, the health care system is redoubling efforts to remain the employer of choice.

The health system is beefing up accreditation and residency programs as part of that effort.

A fellowship program is also offered that can move nurses into advanced specialties that include primary and neonatal care.  The process of selecting fellows is rigorous.


Jennifer Painter, director of Nursing Professional Development and Education at ChristianaCare says the health care system is  placing all new nursing school  graduates  into its residency program. The program has many similarities to the training physicians undergo after medical school.

Residencies  include emergency car, critical care and neonatal care. One of the most difficult residencies to secure is the delivery room position.

The program features a preceptor who works one-on-one in advising the resident nurse.

Also a key part of residencies is an emphasis on the ChristianaCare Way mission statement and culture, which  is heavily emphasized in interviews with nursing applicants and in the residency program itself, Painter noted.

While being part of one of the nation’s larger health care system comes with complexities, it also allows resources to be deployed in sometimes difficult situations.

One example comes with patients who do not speak English. ChristianaCare has interpreters on staff who are fluent in many languages. This is  preferable to using a family member as an interpreter.

One drawing card Christiana Care’s accreditation in a number of nursing specialties and a growing number of options that include nurses that focus on overall wellness of patients. The system is a national leader in that area, according to Painter.

The chances for career development is  also an antidote to “career burnout” that occurs in all helping professions that can come with heavy demands and high stress levels.

Painter says many nurses will stay in more traditional work areas, but others will seek options in management, education  and specialty areas.

In the meantime, the   demand for nurses is expected  to  increase as the population ages and  “baby boomer” nurses continue to retire.

The issue of health care costs is also coming into play. ChristianaCare is moving away from  fees for services  to payment based on outcomes.

The  regional health care industry  has seen its share of  change as Philadelphia’s Hahnemann University  Hospital  shut its doors after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware. The case is ongoing, given the hospital’s status as a teaching institution.

Layoffs have also been reported at other health care systems in the region.

So far, Painter has not seen any big  uptick in applications for nursing positions, despite the turmoil elsewhere in the Delaware Valley.