Nurse Residency Program Honored as a Best Practice

June 1, 2014

The Nurse Residency Program of Bassett Healthcare Network was recently honored as a Best Practice by the New York Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders (NYONEL). NYONEL recognized the program for its success in helping to improve nurse retention rates, competency, clinical decision-making and patient outcomes.

Bassett’s yearlong nurse residency program, a collaborative effort with Hartwick College’s nursing department, started in July of 2011 and is a 12-month course of study for newly hired graduate registered nurses (RNs). In the three years since the program was initiated, 164 RNs have completed their nurse residency and 86 RNs are currently enrolled in the program.

Bassett Medical Center's Chief Nursing Officer, Judi Brendle, explains that, "Nursing is a rewarding, but also challenging career. Those nurses who choose to leave the profession early often do so because they find the demands overwhelming and lack the support and tools for the transition from education to practice. The nurse residency experience provides new nurses with support and additional learning, in the environment of care, that's needed in order to be successful and satisfied."

Nurse residents participate in classroom instruction and guided discussion sessions designed to improve clinical judgment and promote professional development. The curriculum also includes scenario-based simulations, participation in committees and the development of a professional portfolio. Nurse residents complete a “clinical champion project” in their first year centered on improving practice, patient safety or outcomes. In addition, the new RNs receive weekly feedback and participate in goal setting sessions with their preceptor, a clinical educator and nurse manager.

“Nursing is a very demanding profession, even more so today because patients are coming to the hospital sicker, and caring for multiple patients can be intense,” notes Network Chief Nursing Officer Connie Jastremski, RN, MS, MBA. “By offering additional instruction geared toward improving practice skills, clinical decision making and professional development, we’ve been able to better prepare new nurses for the rigors of the job and improve retention rates.”

In fact, the program has dramatically improved retention of new graduate nurses in their first year of practice at Bassett. Using calendar year data for 2010, the retention rate for new graduate nurses in their first year of practice was 61 percent. However, that rate has increased to nearly 80 percent for newly hired nurses who have completed the nurse residency program.

“The inpatient environment is stressful for a new nurse,” notes Lisa Magnan, a graduate of the nurse residency program. “I found the hands on education, such as simulated patient seizures and similar emergent care issues, very helpful. The program also provided me with the opportunity to glean information from those who have more experience in specialized fields. My preceptor, who is truly my mentor, was tremendously supportive and encouraged my questions so that I learned all I could. The combination of nurse residency and the orientation process set me on the path to becoming a well-rounded, educated, and caring nurse. I could not have made it through my first year of nursing without that support.”

Evaluations completed by the nurse resident participants reflected that 86 percent strongly agree that the program increased their ability to provide quality patient care and 88 percent would recommend the program to new RNs.

The ultimate goal of Bassett’s nurse residency program is improved patient care and outcomes because of more confident and skilled nurses. Patient outcome indicators are consistently measured as part of nursing’s quality improvement activities. Several patient quality measures, related to content taught in the nurse residency classes, have continued to show improvement. These include specific indicators for patients with stroke, heart failure, surgical procedures, sepsis, and risk for skin breakdown.

A three-year Health Resources and Services Administration grant for nurse education, practice, quality and retention helped fund the development and implementation of the nurse residency program at Bassett. Based on its success, the organization will continue the program beyond the current grant funding cycle.

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