by Dana Garcher, MS, RN
Vizient Programmatic Advisor, Nurse Residency Program

Members of the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program™ came together this week to network with peers, share strategies for success and gain new insights on topics related to nurse residency programs  and today’s rapidly changing health care environment. The excitement and energy were palpable at the 2022 conference as participants met in person for the first time in over two years and celebrated the program’s 20th anniversary. Just days away from National Nurses Week, it is captivating to look back and evaluate how far we have come, not only as a program, but also in the nursing field.

Nursing and healthcare have changed dramatically over the last two decades. We have witnessed the development of 3D body parts and the artificial pancreas, advances in gene technology and cancer therapies, even a cure for hepatitis C. Learning no longer exists solely in the classroom; virtual reality and simulation teach healthcare providers, while facilitating engagement and providing a physical life-like experience.

Nursing has witnessed a transition from paper charting to implementation of the electronic health record. Gone are the days of inpatient nurses trying to interpret written provider notes and orders. In hospitals, barcode technology for medication administration is now the norm. Nursing units are decentralized; equipment, such as beds, communication devices and telemetry (to name a few) are “smarter.”

Opportunities in the nursing field are abundant. Schools of nursing offer increasingly flexible schedules and alternate paths to obtain degrees. Nurses are taking on leadership and advanced practice roles at higher rates than ever before. Newly licensed nurses are starting careers in specialty areas, such as NICU, OR and critical care.

There are opportunities for nurses in more fields and settings than ever before. Nurses work not only at the bedside, but also in ambulatory, public health, and telemedicine roles, to mention a few. Industries such as insurance, education, business, law, and government all offer opportunities for nurses.

The last two years have ushered in the sanitization of N-95 masks to allow for reuse, medication and treatment advances to manage COVID-19, continuous research to determine the best ways to care for patients affected by the relentless virus. During this time, nurses have given the public a glimpse of what it is like to truly navigate the unknown.

While much of the population stayed home, nurses had the unique opportunity to show the world what it was like on the front lines. They were vulnerable, and exposed not only the heroic moments, but also the times where frustration, sadness, and fear were evident. Nurses had (and continue) to navigate caring for patients while adapting to ever-changing protocols, policies and guidelines. Nurses Week feels distinct and well-deserved this year.

Over the last 20 years, the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program (NRP) has experienced its share of changes as well. What began in 2002 as a multi-site research study with six academic sites is now a program with over 650 organizations (more than doubling in the last six years)! To maintain the overall goal of offering support to newly licensed nurses, as well as retention of nurses in the profession, the program has continuously adapted to the everchanging healthcare environment.

The nurse residency program model has been cited in the National Academy of Medicine report on nursing. To ensure nurses have the skills and knowledge required to provide the best, most up-to-date care, the program added an evidence-based practice component in 2003. Evidence-based practice was further supported by the American Nurses Association, who state nurses have an ethical obligation to “advance the profession through research and scholarly inquiry.”

The NRP was made available to hospitals across the country in 2007, with the state collaborative (Maryland) joining in 2013. Shortly after, the program was accessible nationally, the curriculum was published, and a formal training program was developed for new sites (in 2008).

During the pandemic, the NRP focused on adapting to support members and newly licensed nurses. Environmental scanning, coordinator and nurse resident feedback, as well as survey data, guided us as we created virtual and engagement resources, “customizable” presentations, and wellness videos.

Although much has changed, a lot remains the same. Nurses continue to rank highest in honesty and ethics as evaluated by the annual Gallup poll. As Florence Nightingale taught us, hand hygiene, sanitation and infection control remain essential, if not, more important than ever.

Change and progression remind us that we are in a profession which requires continuous learning and flexibility. Over the last two decades, nurses continued to prove they are adaptable, dedicated and strong. We may not always have the answer, but we exhibit the skills and experience to encounter whatever is in store for the next 20 years. From newly licensed nurses celebrating their first National Nurses Week, to experienced nurses who have lived through many of the changes mentioned above, thank you for all you do and everything you have provided to this profession. And, happy Nurses Day!

About the author:

Dana Garcher is a programmatic advisor for the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program. Dana supports nurse residency program coordinators throughout the country and assists in the development of NRP program resources, curriculum and onboarding materials. Dana is passionate about providing educational opportunities to further member engagement and support. Prior to joining Vizient, Dana was an Nurse Residency Program Coordinator at a member organization. 

Published: May 6, 2022