Missouri nurses to get summer off through new pilot program

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Some Missouri nurses will soon be able to take advantage of a pilot program that allows them to take summers off in an attempt to alleviate overstaffing issues.

Chesterfield-based Mercy Health's pilot program will accept six nurses, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Many nurses left the hospital last year because they couldn't get enough hours in the summer, said Jenny Schwartz, the nurse manager of the children's hospital at Mercy Hospital St. Louis in Creve Coeur. Nurses are told to stay home when patient volumes are low, resulting in a loss of pay.

"In the summer we have less hospitalization," Schwartz said. "We just don't have the volumes in the summer that we have in the winter."

Christina Muzzy was the first nurse to be accepted into the program. While the 25-year-old will have summer off, it's expected she won't schedule paid time off between September and May. That time period is considered to be the peak for the children's unit and overlaps with flu season.

Schwartz is looking for more candidates to join the program. The ideal candidate is a nurse with at least two years of inpatient pediatric experience.

The program may be a very attractive option for employees with school-age children, said Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

"We do know that employees feel gratitude to companies that they believe are looking after them and do try to find ways to reciprocate and help the company," he said. "It would also be a great retention device, as it's hard to find any other employers who do this."

Mercy has about 44,000 employees in primarily four states.