“Throughout the country, there are large numbers of nursing vacancies and predictions for even more. Hospitals and health care organizations are turning to newly licensed nurses to fill these vacancies. Because these nurses are at the highest risk of leaving an organization within the first few years of practice, organizations should focus on addressing the unique needs of these nurses in creative ways.”

This statement is as true today as it was more than 20 years ago when several academic medical centers approached the University HealthSystem Consortium (now Vizient) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) to develop a program to improve the recruitment of students into Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs and improve recruitment of BSNs into academic medical centers.

The group met for about a year and a half to identify strategies they could implement. And one of those strategies was to develop a standardized nurse residency program to support newly licensed nurses transitioning into their first professional role.

Fast forward 20 years, and today, the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program enrolls newly licensed RNs from all degrees, has 661 hospitals participating in the program, and 224,237 nurse residents have completed the program.

“The positive impact that the program has had on the nursing profession as a whole as well as the hundreds of thousands of nurses that have completed it is astounding,” says Evy Olson, MSN, MBA, RN, vice president, nursing programs, Vizient.

About the program

The 12-month program leverages an evidence-based curriculum from which the participants study and learn through monthly seminars and group discussions and through the completion of an evidence-based project to support the development of critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills.

Hospitals that participate in the program are required to have an academic partner and receive an annual outcomes report and benchmarking reports. The outcomes report examines the impact of the program on its graduates and, to some extent, the impact of the program on the organization. Benchmarking reports enable hospitals to compare their results to other participants in the program.

AACN has been partnering with Vizient for more than 20 years in the nurse residency program as well as how we look at our nursing workforce now and in the future. AACN and Vizient have a shared mutual goal of developing strong, engaged nurses. In reflecting on the 20-year milestone for the program, Deborah Trautman, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, president and chief executive officer, AACN, said, “Preparing new nurses to thrive in today’s workforce is essential to ensuring healthcare access and moving closer to health equity. AACN is proud to partner with Vizient to advance innovation and excellence in nursing education through this model collaboration.”  

 Benefits of the program

Increased retention is the key benefit of the program. Over 20 years of the program’s existence, it has always exceeded the national retention average for nurses in the first year of employment. The historical first-year retention rate is above 90%. In 2021, the first-year retention rate was 86.1% compared with a national average of 75.9%.



Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program participant Rachel Pepper describes the impact the program has had on her career

Kymberlee Cox describes how the value of the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program to her health care organization

In addition, the nurses report increased confidence and skills levels, and enhanced clinical leadership and decision-making skills, as well as enhanced interprofessional professionalism, enhanced team communication and professional engagement.

During the last 20 years, there has been tremendous growth in the Vizient/AACN Nursing Residency Program. Take a look at the timeline at the bottom of this page which highlights some important milestones.

While you reflect on the program’s past, know it is just the beginning. Much work remains to be done and we look forward to continuing to advance the nursing profession and seeing what we can achieve together over the next 20 years. “When I think about the next 20 years of the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program, I hope that every nurse that comes out of nursing school is automatically in a 12-month nurse residency program and is given the time to develop their competency and professional skills and that there is federal reimbursement for these important programs,” says Olson.

Published: June 23, 2022