In this evolving health care environment, nurses now more than ever are critical to delivering care in the acute and ambulatory settings. Health care organizations realize that an adequate supply of highly competent nurses assure the delivery of high quality and safe care, as well assupport cost effectiveness and avoidance of medical error. Due to the importance of bridging academic preparation and practice, a residency experience is becoming a standard expectation for entry into nursing practice.   

To help newly graduated nurses progress in gaining professional confidence and support clinical learning as they enter practice, many hospitals are investing in nurse residency programs (NRPs). Similar to the residency programs physicians and other health care disciplines undergo, these programs give recently graduated nurses the support and learning opportunities to smooth the transition from novice to competent clinician capable of:

• Effectively communicating with physicians and interprofessional teams
• Leading a care delivery team
• Managing ethical or end-of-life issues
“Graduates participating in a residency program gain much-needed confidence and maturity in that critical first year after graduating, which is highly beneficial to the nurse, the patient and the hospital,” said Debra McElroy, associate vice president, Nursing Programs. “One area where we consistently see immediate improvement after program implementation is the reduction in adverse events involving nurses in their first year of practice.”

The Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program launched in 2002 in collaboration with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). The AACN is the national voice for baccalaureate and graduate nursing education.

There is a huge financial upside to hospitals who have implemented NRPs. “An article in the Journal of Nursing Administration reported the estimated cost to a hospital to replace a nurse who quits in their first year is between $80,000 and $90,000. Hospitals who have utilized the Vizient/AACN program have a 95% average retention rate for first-year nurses. This far exceeds the national average of 75%,” said McElroy.

These benefits haven’t gone unnoticed in the industry. In an October 2010 Institutes of Medicine (IOM) report, "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health," one of the eight recommendations cited was implementing nurse residency programs as a key to improving retention. Further, in 2015 the IOM recognized the Vizient/AACN program as a model for the industry. It has also been adopted as the state model for Hawaii and Maryland. 


“One of the most exciting elements of working with this program over the last 14 years has been seeing the change in perception by the C-suite and front-line clinicians. It has gone from a ‘nice to have’ experience for new nurses to having it hardwired into onboarding programs,” said McElroy.

McElroy estimates 60,000 nurses have gone through the Vizient/AACN program since its inception. “We currently have 260 hospitals using our NRP program. This year we have onboarded 50 facilities and are on pace to expand and have 120 by the end of 2016.”

“Nurse residency programs are a proven path toward addressing the shortage of nurses in our country. They create an environment that leads to the development of effective decision-making, leadership and critical thinking skills, and they strengthen the professional commitment to nursing in new graduates,” said McElroy.“

Published: June 14, 2016