Medical residency programs aren't just for doctors - it turns out they work quite well for nurses, too. New graduate nurses who took part in a one-year residency program at two Las Vegas hospitals were less stressed, more clinically savvy and much more likely than their peers to stay with their employer after the first year, a new UNLV study finds.
UNLV nursing professor Susan Kowalski, who co-authored the study, developed the nurse residency program in 2007 amid a nurse shortage and rising first-year turnover rate in Nevada hospitals - more than 30 percent - that forced near constant staffing transition.
She tracked 55 new graduate nurse residents at Desert Springs and Valley hospitals over a two-year period for the study. Nurses from the first group had a 78 percent retention rate after the first year; the number jumped to 96 percent for the second group.
"Residency programs result in more confident and successful nurses, but they also positively affect the bottom line," says Kowalski, who notes that nurse recruitment and training can run employers up to $10,000 per nurse. "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."
Kowalski also measured stress and anxiety levels, clinical competency and overall job satisfaction among the nurses at six different intervals each year and saw continued improvement in all areas. According to Kowalski, the continual, significant progress shown by nurse residents throughout the program indicates that expanding current on-the-job training from basic orientations into yearlong residencies is worth the up front cost.
"The bottom line is that for new nurses to be successful, employers need to be committed to easing new graduate's transition into the healthcare environment," she says. "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."
The residency program, now wrapping its third year, was funded through a multi-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration and expands on each hospital's existing nurse orientation. 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 UNLV's clinical simulation center. Starting this fall, the program will expand to include Summerlin, Centennial Hills and Spring Valley hospitals in Las Vegas.
The study, which tracked retention and performance indicators of nurse residents over a two-year period, was recently published in the Journal of Nursing Management (Volume 18, issue 1). Media interested in obtaining a copy of the publication can contact Tony Allen at (702) 895-0893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.