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New nurses transition to clinical leaders

Three nurses display residency poster

Jadia Ditzler, B.S.N., R.N.; Melissa Lewis, B.S.N., R.N.; and Jennifer Sies, B.S.N., R.N.

In June 2010, the Medical Center welcomed its first group of graduate nurse residents. The Nurse Residency Program is a twelve-month program for graduates of baccalaureate programs in nursing designed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and administered by the University Hospital Consortium (UHC). The AACN/UHC Nurse Residency Program (NRP) includes a series of learning and work experiences designed to assist graduate nurses as they transition into their first professional roles.

For many new nurses beginning their careers, shifting from the academic world to a clinical environment can be a big adjustment. “One of the major focuses for the program is to assist the nurse in this transition with the goal of improving nurse retention, both at a national level and here at Penn State Hershey,” explains Mary Lou Kanaskie, M.S., R.N.-B.C., A.O.C.N., clinical nurse educator, NRP coordinator. “By following new nurses through their first year of employment, we can provide positive experiences and reinforcement that will encourage them to stay both at Penn State Hershey and in the nursing profession.”

The NRP goes beyond a new nurse’s orientation and preceptor programs. “Since this program spans the entire first year of clinical care, there’s an opportunity to cover broader topics that will have more meaning a few months into the job rather than in the first few weeks,” explains Beth Bates, R.N., B.S., N.D., instructor, Penn State School of Nursing. One example of how topics are explored is through their “Tales from the Bedside” discussions, which allow small groups of nurses to reflect on their shared experiences.

Another key objective of the program is to empower new nurses to take on leadership roles on their clinical units. The program focuses on evidence-based practice and quality-driven interventions. All nurse residents are required to complete an evidence-based practice project, which focuses on patient outcomes that are dependent on nursing care interventions. The projects are presented to their peers and others within the Department of Nursing. “We’ve had some exceptional projects, and the work initiated by these nurses is shaping practice on their units,” says Kanaskie.  In fact, a team of nurses were recently chosen to attend the UHC’s Nurse Residency Program Annual Conference where they presented their project “Comfort Care: The Thorough Provision of a Different Sort of Care.”  The team included nurses from the Penn State Cancer Institute: Jadia Ditzler, B.S.N., R.N.; Melissa Lewis, B.S.N., R.N.; and Jennifer Sies, B.S.N., R.N. 

While the NRP was designed to support new B.S.N. graduates, it’s also elevating the profession by providing nurses with an associate degree or diploma a pathway to obtain their B.S.N. The Department of Nursing Education and Professional Development has partnered with Penn State School of Nursing to offer a new course, which enables graduates who have an associate degree or diploma to earn three nursing credits for participating in the NRP throughout the year.  “This is a revolutionary idea. We’re providing our new nurses an opportunity to earn those credits toward a B.S.N. in a way that is very convenient to them,” says Pamela Meinert, Ph.D., M.S.N., C.R.N.P., director, nursing education and professional development.

The program continues to thrive as new cohorts enter every six months. The nurse residents who complete the program represent the future of nursing. “Looking back at my own entry into practice, I still remember special moments from thirty years ago that gave confirmation that I was meant to be a nurse. You want your profession to be proud of your work, and the NRP accomplishes this by celebrating nursing,” says Bates.

– By Dawn Costantini

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