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The gift of a nursing residency


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The first four months of a new graduate nurse's job can be stressful, to say the least. Trying to fit into a new facility, trying to remember everything from nursing school, and trying to stay awake during those long shifts are all tall tasks in themselves. A little help, a gift, would be nice.

At the Seton Family of Hospitals in Central Texas, that gift now comes in the form of the Versant RN Residency Program.

"Hospitals all over the country are hurting for nurses," says Pam Castles, RN, MSN, program manager at Seton. "If we can retain our nurses I know that we are going to have better quality patient care."

Less than a year after implementing the Versant program, Castles has seen the number of participants double. The program has become a valuable tool for both recruitment and retention at the organization.

"The biggest benefit is that we are really improving the nursing profession. We are producing individuals who are proud to be nurses and who are confident in their nursing skills," says Castles. "I think it is really going to change the face of nursing and I am proud to be a part of this movement."

A normal orientation period for a nurse is between 6-8 weeks depending on the specialty. But Seton wanted to invest more into its new nurses, and the results speak for themselves. After only two sessions using the Versant program, Seton's turnover rate has dropped from 33 percent to 7 percent at the three-month mark, which is often one of the most critical times for a new nurse, Castles says.

"The nurses are just not confident [after three months]," says Castles. "They feel like they are not providing the best patient care they can, and really do require the support system that Versant puts in place."

Versant, a California-based company, has implemented the residency program at several facilities across the country. An implementation director is assigned at each facility to assist in implementation and provide consultation. The comprehensive, standardized curriculum helps organizations offer additional support and guidance to new nurses.

The evidence-based, 18-week program is structured so 25 percent of the nurse's time is spent in the classroom or a simulated lab setting, and the other 75 percent is with their preceptors at the bedside. Nurses are matched with preceptors according to their experience using Patricia Benner's novice to expert model. The program also provides nurses with mentors to talk about professional development, and debriefing groups to allow residents time to vent about their frustrations and devise strategies to solve problems.

"We have discovered that it takes an entire hospital system to raise a new nurse," Castles says.

Another strength of the Versant program is that instructors teaching in the classroom also work at the bedside, so they can offer residents specific information on a daily basis. Castles says this is what makes the process of applying the information in a hospital setting so effective for the nurse.

Residents and former residents are surveyed every six, 12, and 24 months for data comparison. Periodical surveys gauge each nurse's perspective on their confidence and competency levels, along with how he or she is integrating into the hospital culture.

"That is one of the reasons why I think this program is so successful," says Castles. "It really does require the institution to be committed to the program by receiving the data and making changes for the better."

And that is exactly what Seton has done from the first group of 65 nurses in September to the second, 111 nurses in January. Overall, Castles says Seton is seeing wonderful results, even if it can be a challenge employing the program over its network of eight different hospital sites. Already, 106 new nurses are enrolled in the June program.

"I strongly recommend a residency for all new nurses," says Castles. "I think this is the most valuable and the best gift that anybody could give a nurse. Hopefully, this will be a requirement in all hospitals."

Editor's note: Learn more about the Versant RN Residency Program.