Nurses are at the core of the patient care team. Whether a patient is diagnosed with cancer, admitted to the Swedish Neuroscience Institute or is delivering a healthy baby, they receive care from a team of highly-skilled and dedicated nurses.

Many of us take it for granted that our nurses will be skilled, competent and caring. But how do new nursing school graduates learn how to be effective caregivers? The following is an interview with Susan Jones, Clinical Educator in the Swedish RN Residency program, an innovative approach to ensuring Swedish is preparing our talented new nurses for a successful nursing career.

1. Can you tell me what a nurse residency is and why it is important?
Nursing school teaches the basics --entry level skills and the critical thinking skills necessary to think through clinical scenarios. When the newly licensed nurse works in a hospital setting,  the patients deserve and expect excellence at every point in their care. This is a tall order for the new nurse. A nurse residency is a working educational experience where a newly licensed nurse is supported as they transition from the academic environment to the hospital environment
This support includes 1:1 supervision by an experienced staff nurse for 12-24 weeks (depending on the specialty), frequent simulations where the nurse provides care to a high-fidelity mannequin (so practice can occur without placing real patients at risk), specialty specific education, formal performance feedback from the manager and educators, and the support and guidance by a team of advanced practice nurses who specialize in education.

2. The nurse residency program seems like a significant investment; how is it funded?
Nurse residency programs and simulation are very expensive ways to learn, but we find the learning so superior, as measured from the patient’s perspective, to be a tremendous asset. The nursing residency program graduates are more self-confident, have better job satisfaction, and stay at Swedish longer than the national averages. Swedish new grad turnover rate is 6.4%, national average is 13%-24%, and can range up to 60%.
Gifts from the community have had a significant impact on our ability to develop and expand our nurse residency program. Thanks to the Destination Swedish fundraising luncheon that was hosted on February 11th, we have received nearly $500,000 from our generous donors that will help expand this program so even more new nurses-from a broad spectrum of specialties- can benefit from the residency program.

3. I have read conflicting stories over the years about a pending “national nurse shortage”; Is this shortage of quality nurses a reality?
The pending national nursing shortage is a reality. Almost half of the nation’s nurses are 50 or older, with the largest age group being aged 50-54 (Additional details can be found on the American Nurses Association fact sheet). Nurses at Swedish, on average, are a bit older than the national average.
In the November 26, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, workforce analyst Dr. Peter Buerhaus stated: “Over the next 20 years, the average age of the RN will increase and the size of the workforce will plateau as large numbers of RNs retire. Because demand for RNs is expected to increase during this time, a large and prolonged shortage of nurses is expected to hit the US in the latter half of the next decade.” American Association of Colleges of Nursing

4. What is the major difference you see between new nursing graduates who have had the benefit of a residency training program and those who have not?
All newly licensed RNs at Swedish are enrolled in the RN Residency program. Many studies have shown that nurses who transition to practice without the support of a program have higher stress levels, poorer patient outcomes, less job satisfaction, and many leave nursing all together!

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