From the desk of Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, February 4, 2011

Editor's note: This feature is written by nursing staff development expert Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN. Each week, Adrianne writes about an important issue in the area of staff development or answers reader questions. If you have a question for Adrianne, e-mail her at

Q. How do I decrease the length of orientation and still provide new employees with the orientation they need?

A. This question is a constant refrain in nursing staff development and has been for many years. I have been asked this question many times, but what concerns me is that I've never had anyone also ask, "How can I better use the evidence I have to justify, review, and revise my orientation program?"

I suggest that we arm ourselves with relevant data at all times. The ability to review and appropriately revise an orientation program depends on the evidence you collect and how well you analyze that evidence. Requests to alter orientation may or may not be reasonable. You won't know this without adequate data collection and analysis. These are the keys to a successful orientation program. Any revisions you make are contingent upon what your evidence tells you.

The data you need to collect includes:

  • Turnover rates by unit and by department as a whole.
  • Evidence of learning and the format (e.g., simulation, distance learning, classroom, etc.) in which learning occurs. Also, the time necessary to participate in the orientation learning activity and demonstrate learning.
  • Number of orientees who successfully complete orientation and the length of orientation, including working under the direct supervision of a preceptor.
  • Evaluation of orientation completed by orientees.
  • Evaluation of preceptors completed by orientees.
  • Evaluation of orientees completed by preceptors.

You cannot address orientation revisions without this data. Otherwise you are simply reacting to requests (usually made by managers) that orientees finish orientation as quickly as possible without the information you need to plan, revise, or, in some cases, justify keeping orientation the way it is.

Your department needs to function as an evidence-based practice entity every bit as much as a clinical department. Without adequate evidence, you are simply guessing as to what works and what doesn't.

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