Nurse Residency Programs Pay For Themselves

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media , August 31, 2010

In a large hospital system with significant new graduate turnover, Hansen estimates residency programs could save $200,000-$400,000 per year. Even small organizations can save thousands, which can more than pay for the time and expense of instituting programs.

Nurse residency programs are much more involved than what happens during orientation and preceptorships. They are structured programs that last longer—typically a year, although some hospitals have shorter programs—and that support new grads with ongoing education and mentoring.

Hospitals design programs that meet their needs. A typical curriculum includes ongoing clinical education, development of skills such as critical thinking, and social networking. Many new graduates report that time spent with other new grads is the most helpful part of the program, allowing them a much-needed outlet to decompress and share stories, receiving comfort from finding others are in the same boat.

Hansen says Kootenai Health views the residency program as an investment in the professionalism of its nurses. When designing the program, he focused on the end point. "What kind of a nurse do we want to have?" he says. "We want good nurses who provide excellent care and are committed to staying working with us."

He examined the gaps that had been identified between school and practice and set out to include education in technical skills, as well as what he calls "professional comportment," including critical thinking, organizational skills, prioritization skills, professionalism, and interacting with physicians, pharmacy, and all the members of the care team.

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