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Academics award: Tony Paterniti, Ph.D.

- Dallas Business Journal: Page 1 of 2

Dallas Business Journal - September 15, 2003


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Friday, September 12, 2003

Academics award: Tony Paterniti, Ph.D.


Internship program boosts Methodist's nurse retention rate
Dallas Business Journal - by Sandra Zaragoza Staff Writer

As hospitals fret over how they can improve nursing recruiting and retaining practices, some
eyes are turning to an educator dubbed "Dr. P" who has greatly improved the nursing situation
at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

Tony Paterniti, an education specialist, has been instrumental in shaping Methodist's


internship program, which focuses on helping nursing graduates transition from the classroom
to the clinical setting.

"He has taken it from what we had, a concept, and made that concept into a reality," said Linda
Odgers, director of the department of education at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

Since he assumed the position more than three years ago, the program has surpassed
enrollment expectations year after year. Paterniti facilitated a collaboration with the University
of Texas at Tyler and the University of Texas at Arlington to offer college credit to interns
enrolled in the program. Few nursing intern programs in the area offer college credit, which
gives Methodist an edge in attracting and retaining high caliber nurses, he said.

Paterniti credits Methodist for investing in nurse liaisons like him, as many hospitals do not
have educational support or intern programs. As a nursing liaison, Paterniti monitors the
interns and helps them adjust socially to their new environment.

Although the internship programs last three to six months, Paterniti develops a long-term
relationship with the interns. He observes each nurse for an average of two years, giving them
guidance and counseling throughout. It is rare for a program to have such lengthy follow-up,
but he believes it's critical to the success of the program.

"You can intervene in advance of issues, before they become a major problem," he said. "It
gives you a much better ability to predict problems for nursing interns and do something about
it."

Because of Paterniti's efforts, the retention rate for nurses hovers at 87% at Methodist. It is a
rate that has prompted some North Texas hospitals to pattern their programs after Methodist's
and has prompted some smaller hospitals to send their nurses through the program.

"He has a real drive to make nursing all that it can be," said Lori Ferguson, education specialist

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Academics award: Tony Paterniti, Ph.D. - Dallas Business Journal: Page 2 of 2

at Methodist. "Tony has been a mentor to every nurse in this program. He makes the transition
easier for new nurses by encouraging every nurse to achieve his or her highest potential."

Paterniti has an open-door policy for all the nurses, and it is not unusual to see him working
late or even working a double-shift if a student needs him, she said.

Paterniti believes that helping students evolve into professionals is the most rewarding aspect
of his job.

"In the first year they are inexperienced, then you see them taking charge of a nursing
department. It is a wonderful thing to witness" he said.

In the future, Paterniti hopes to have and opportunity to train more nurses for his profession.

"I would like to be able to train two or three other nurses as liaisons," he said. "That, I think,
could be very satisfying."

Contact DBJ writer Sandra Zaragoza at szaragoza@bizjournals.com or (214) 706-7112.

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