Medical residency programs aren't just for doctors. New nurses who take part in a UNLV-designed residency program are less stressed, more clinically savvy, and more likely than their peers to stay with their employer after the first year.
UNLV nursing professor Susan Kowalski introduced the one-year program in 2007, amid a nurse shortage and rising first-year turnover rates -- more than 30 percent -- that forced near constant staffing transition in Nevada hospitals.
"New grads typically go through a series of survival stages before settling into their professional self concept, which for some overwhelmed graduates can mean leaving the nursing profession entirely within the first year," said Kowalski.
Peer Support and Mentoring
The residency program, offered through a partnership with the Valley Health System, expands on existing nurse orientation programs at Desert Springs and Valley hospitals in Las Vegas. New nurse residents are paired with experienced mentors on each shift for the first three months. During the remaining nine months, residents engage in regular advising sessions, monthly training days, and simulation exercises at the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas on the UNLV Shadow Lane campus.
"The jump from clinical and simulated training to the real thing can be stressful for new grads, but mentoring and peer support through transition programs work and ultimately keep nurses in the profession where they're needed," Kowalski said.
To test the program's effectiveness, Kowalski measures stress and anxiety levels, clinical competency, and overall job satisfaction among the nurses at six different intervals each year. Though all areas have shown improvement, retention among participants has jumped dramatically. The initial residents had a 78 percent retention rate after one year; the number jumped to 96 percent for the second group.
Good for the Bottom Line
According to Kowalski, the continual progress shown by nurse residents indicates that expanding on-the-job training from basic orientations into yearlong residencies is worth the up-front cost.
"Residency programs result in more confident and successful nurses, but they also positively affect the bottom line," said Kowalski, who notes that nurse recruitment and training can run employers up to $10,000 per nurse.
The nurse residency program is in its fourth year and expanded this fall to include Summerlin, Centennial Hills, and Spring Valley hospitals in Las Vegas. Funding for the project comes from a multi-year grant to the UNLV School of Nursing from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.