Nursing residency programs: What you need to know

As a recent graduate of nursing school, you're likely ready to take the next step in your career. But getting started isn't always easy – nailing the interview, polishing your skills and general apprehension surrounding your new profession can be tough to manage at first.

Nursing residence programs are designed specifically to help new nurses transition to working full-time. Like a medical residency, this is an opportunity to build expertise and gain hands-on experience in a controlled and safe setting. Often nursing residency programs – at a magnet hospital or elsewhere – are designed to be instructive and supportive, with a reduced patient load as well as opportunities to grow professionally.

What is a nurse residency program?
As Medscape reported, it can be difficult to define a nurse residency program accurately. This is because there is variability among hospitals as to what sort of responsibilities and opportunities may be made available. Overall, a nursing residency is a program where a recent graduate can practice nursing skills in a professional setting with a bit of safety net.

Unlike an internship, these programs usually are offered to fully licensed nurses. These are structured, formal introductions to professional nursing for after graduation. Some schools may work with a university or area hospitals to help nurses integrate immediately into a residency program following graduation, while some individuals may apply on their own once they are out of college. Medscape reported that these usually last anywhere from three months to one year or more.

A nursing residency program helps you learn from other professionals.A nursing residency program helps you learn from other professionals.

Daily responsibilities
Residency programs give new nurses the chance to build nursing skills, and grow professionally, as well as make a little bit of money. Most of the time, a hospital or care center will have specific responsibilities and opportunities for residency nurses, regardless of specialty. Children's National Health System, for example, stated that its program has three phases in an effort to give nurses the smoothest possible transition from a school setting to a professional work place. 

Overall, nursing residency programs often start slowly, with lots of opportunities to ask questions and learn. There will be day-to-day clinical responsibilities, as well as orientation sessions and group consultations. Over time, nursing residents will not only be asked to do more, but may also have opportunities to explore different specialties. Although each nursing residency program is unique, all share the same goal of providing new nurses with an experience that maximizes growth in a safe and supportive way.

Why should nurses consider these programs?
Although these sorts of programs are great for recent graduates interested in improving their nursing skills before joining the professional work force, some nurses may feel as if they received plenty of hands-on experience during their schooling. There are benefits beyond skill-building, however.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that residency programs have incredibly high retention rates for hospitals. For new nurses, residency can represent a great opportunity to become involved with a network or provider, making it easier to find a full-time job. This can reduce the stress of searching for employment, as well as any difficulty in joining a new organization.

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