Ask the expert: Structuring nurse residency programs for new graduate nurses

Nurse Leader Insider, February 20, 2012

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This week, Jim Hansen, MSN, RN-BC, gives advice on developing a nurse residency program that uses the available time effectively to cover all of the necessary material.

Q: How can I structure the timing of my organization's nurse residency program to ensure that all the necessary content is covered?

A: Developing new graduate competency takes time, patience, and diligence, but it can be done and it is definitely worth the effort. Once you have an idea of what your competencies will be, which ones you want to cover in your nurse residency program (NRP), and which teaching activities are best suited to develop those competencies, you will have a good idea how much time it will take to accomplish your goals.

Your competencies determine your content, and you will probably find you have quite a lot to cover, probably in the area of 30-42 hours or so. How do you go about structuring your time to get it covered? Every organization's needs are different, but here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • You will need to plan for eight hours of classroom time for every six hours of actual content. People need breaks, diversions, and lunch. That means if you have 36 hours of content, you should plan on a total of 48 hours of actual class time.
  • Every hour they spend with you is an hour they are not spending in patient care. Unit managers refer to these hours as nonproductive, and although they budget for a portion of them (so their nurses can attend staff meetings, mandatory education, and credentialing classes), organizations often keep them to a minimum and focus on productive hours when nurses are actually caring for patients. Money for employee hours is a finite resource, and nonproductive hours are even more so.
  • Some units hire a lot of new graduates, and some do not hire any. A unit that routinely hires five or more new graduates each June may not be able to easily schedule them all off the unit to come to an NRP class. Be thoughtful of the unit managers-they will ultimately become your greatest champions or worst enemies.
  • New graduates generally are hired into the organization twice a year: in June (May graduates), and January (December graduates). Others may trickle in throughout the summer, but you will see the majority hired during these two months.
  • If you plan to use other presenters and instructors for your content, you will have to accommodate their schedules as well.
  • Using in-house salaried people as presenters will be a less expensive option for your program. Salaried people usually work during the week and will not need to be paid for hours they spend coming in on their day off to help you present key material to your new graduates.

To read more expert advice, click here.

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