Like Matchmakers, ECU Faculty Connect Nurses to Nursing Homes In Need

May 7, 2020

Credit The National Guard via Flickr. Photo by Sgt. Michael Baltz.

Five faculty members at the East Carolina University College of Nursing are volunteering behind the scenes to identify nurses across the state who can pick up shifts at long term care facilities.

"Because long term care facilities are always in need of good staffing, when the least little thing happens -- like a pandemic -- then they have increased staffing needs because their staff have called out [sick]," said ECU nursing professor Jan Tillman.

Some facilities are in dire need of staff during the coronavirus pandemic, and some furloughed, retired or brand new nurses might be available to help. So Tillman and the Department of Health and Human Services designed a way to bring them together.

The Department is now accepting online applications from qualified registered nurses and certified nursing assistants willing to fill shifts.

"It's as simple as filling out a simple application that probably takes about three minutes," Tillman said.

Dr. Jan Tillman is working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, grading papers and matching nurses to understaffed long term care facilities.
Credit Courtesy of Jan Tillman

Tillman and the other ECU faculty got involved after participating in a conference call the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen held with the North Carolina Nurses Association.

At the end of the meeting, Tillman asked a question.

"And the question I had was, 'How can I be involved as a nurse educator, whose skill set is finding solutions for systematic problems?'"

The department took her up on her offer and got back a few days later with a list of potential problems to solve. She and her colleagues decided they could work on matching a list of long term care facilities that had reached out for assistance with nurses that apply to work through the DHHS portal.

"They send them to me and I kind of match them up," Tillman said. "Sometimes I feel like an online dating service, but much more for the skilled professional."

In less than a week, she and her colleagues have referred 400 potential employees to lessen the burden on understaffed nursing homes.

"We know that only a handful of those will actually pan out," Tillman said. "But those are a handful of folks that our long term care facilities across the state wouldn't have access to."

Tillman said she hopes the matching service can be a model for the future during hurricanes and other times of acute need. For now, she's happy to be of service during the present crisis.

"We all have some way that we can give back, and it's not a whole lot for us to take on a little piece of the pie," Tillman said.