by Evy Olson, MSN, MBA, RN
Associate Vice President, Nursing Programs

Nurse graduates finish school fresh and excited to start their dream job. They know what they know and are eager to jump in. My daughter was the typical new RN: she had a great job, and was confident and excited to get started. Fast-forward about six months. Calls at the end of her shifts were often tearful, fearful and full of questions if she should even be a nurse. She was afraid she might cause harm and was surprised by the complexity of conditions in the patients she was caring for.

Sadly, my daughter’s experience isn’t unique. New nurses face several challenges as they enter the workforce. Limited clinical exposure in school and complex clinical situations in busy health care facilities come together to cause stress, a lack of confidence and a level of uncertainty in their career choice. These challenges can cause them to leave their jobs, or even worse, leave the profession entirely.

So how do we help the new RN enter our profession and find joy in the work? A nurse residency program (NRP), built with a focus on quality patient care, clinical leadership skills and professional development, is just the answer. I believe critical components to building competencies in these areas include a yearlong program with regularly scheduled connection time, a focus on professional development and clinical decision-making skills, and a foundation of evidence-based practice.

Evidence-based practice: the bedrock of nursing practice

Health care that’s provided based on evidence in a caring environment leads to better clinical outcomes and less variation. The evidence-based practice process begins in nursing school, continues throughout a nurse’s career and serves as the foundation for an NRP. As we face more complex clinical situations, we look to the literature for the best ways to potentially address these challenges. Armed with evidence, our enhanced clinical decision-making leads to improvements in nursing care, and health care overall. Evidence-based nursing helps ensure patients receive the highest quality, most cost-effective care possible. We must always search to bring the best to every patient, and be rigorous in our search to provide the highest level of nursing care possible.

A year in the life: leading and living the transitions to practice 

I’m happy to say that my daughter is now a successful, confident one-year nurse, and continues to learn and grow her nursing skills. She provides compassionate, insightful care as part of the provider team in her organization. Her orientation at the bedside taught her skills and reinforced her abilities. The NRP brought her the ability to come together every month with her peers in a small collaborative setting to enhance her professional development. The clinical reflections time brought her the facilitated problem-solving in a trusted environment. The year-long program is important to continue to provide support and education to help them assimilate the experiential knowledge with the academic knowledge.

Reflecting on my work leading an NRP over the past year, I am proud to be part of a team committed to these principles, and committed to assisting new nurses as they transition successfully into the profession. Equally as important, I now hear my daughter talk about nursing with excitement and an eagerness to provide outstanding care and continue her life-long learning journey. As a mother, and as a health care professional, that brings me great joy. Nursing is a great profession and a critical component of patient care. Every first-year nurse will find it challenging on many levels and an NRP is key to successfully overcoming those challenges.  

For more information about the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program and the resources available to help facilitate the transition of your new nurse graduates, contact us today.

About the author. With more than 30 years of experience in the health care industry, Evy Olson is a trusted advisor, providing leadership to nursing, quality and safety programs and is adept at creating successful partnerships with system leaders, physicians and health care staff. In her role at Vizient, Olson is responsible for operational leadership of nursing programs that help member hospitals achieve enhanced levels of nursing competency, quality and clinical leadership. She provides strategic leadership and direction for the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program, which is currently utilized by more than 500 organizations across the U.S., as they focus on the transition of recent nursing school graduates to the role of professional registered nurse.

Published: May 8, 2019