Transforming new graduate RNs into confident, competent nurses is a formidable challenge for hospitals. In Anchorage, Alaska Regional Hospital’s new RN residency program is meeting that challenge head on.
In April, the hospital started eight new nurses in its first 18-week program, hoping to reduce its average turnover of 20%.
“Roughly 50 to 60 new grads applied,” residency program manager Rebecca Unwin, RN, said. The competitive residency uses the Versant education and training program, she said.
The goal is to increase competency and confidence in new grads while providing a path into the professional nursing arena in a state where few positions exist for new nurses. The RN residents sign a two-year contract with the hospital.
So far, the residency has been worthwhile, said Caroline Aulie, RN, BSN. She applied for the RN residency after graduating with a BSN in December 2012 from the University of Alaska Anchorage.
“Being a new grad and trying to get into ICU is pretty impossible,” Aulie said. “As a new grad, you need to spend time just learning things. I needed time to begin to feel competent enough [to work as an RN].”
Aulie, who hopes to work as a flight nurse one day, learns about nursing during the two eight-hour classes she and seven other residents take each week. Nurses and other healthcare staff teach specific topics. The classroom instruction element of the residency program supports the clinical work component, Unwin said.
“The new grads are responding positively,” she said. “It’s an intensive program and can be stressful. When nurses finish nursing school, they want to be real RNs on [the unit]; this slows them down to learn as much as possible over a formal length of time.”
The new nurses were hired for positions in the critical care, cardiovascular surgery, progressive care, medical oncology and mother-baby units. Each works with a series of three preceptors while on the job, and each preceptor offers a different level of support and involvement as the residents develop their skills.
Holly McDaniel, RN, BSN, is Aulie’s second preceptor. McDaniel came to Alaska three years ago as a travel nurse and participated in a similar residency in Kentucky after her graduation.
She said she’s pleased with how Alaska Regional’s residency has progressed since starting in April. “With Caroline, it’s really more of a teaching relationship, showing her the ropes of how we do it in the real world,” McDaniel said. “As she’s going along, her skills are developing, and now it’s become more of a nurse-to-nurse rapport. I’m doing more showing, and Caroline is the one doing the procedures.”
McDaniel said being a preceptor has kept her on top of her skills, which is valuable because she plans to take the CCRN exam soon.
In addition to classes and on-floor preceptors, the resident nurses receive yearlong mentoring to help them set goals for their professional futures. They also meet regularly to deal with experiences, such as patient deaths or difficult family member interactions.
The residency ends in August, Unwin said, then another with 10 new grads will start. The hospital hopes to hire 15 nurses for future programs. Everyone seems to be winning, Unwin and Aulie agreed, because staff feel the new energy the grads bring to the hospital.
“Personally, I’m growing into a confident, competent nurse,” Aulie said. “I’ve morphed — it’s amazing.”
For more information, visit Alaska Regional.