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December 3, 2008 > New Nursing Graduates Get an Edge at Washington Hospital

New Nursing Graduates Get an Edge at Washington Hospital

Formal Program Provides Classroom Training and Mentorship

New employees in most professions experience a learning curve. For newly graduated Registered Nurses (RN's), beginning a career in an acute care hospital can be quite an adjustment.

To help its new nurses provide quality, safe patient care, Washington Hospital offers its new nursing graduates a dedicated, comprehensive eight-week training that provides a supportive learning environment. Paul Sanchez, R.N., a Staff Nurse II at Washington Hospital's Center for Joint Replacement (CJR), found that being able to ask questions in a comfortable environment was particularly helpful for him when he started at the hospital.

Sanchez graduated from California State University, East Bay in March and began working at the hospital in April.

"The program was really great," Sanchez says. "Our class had 18 new grads. For the first seven days, we were in a classroom environment and the speakers talked about different hospital programs and gave presentations. Then, we had the chance to ask questions of the speaker.

"We also had simulations called 'sim lab' where we would go in as a team and assess the patient, and the facilitators would perform an evaluation. The experience definitely made us a lot more comfortable going into clinical work on the floors. We also covered all the equipment we would use. We got to go over a little of everything. It definitely helped quite a bit."

Sam Avila, R.N., simulation manager at Washington Hospital, coordinates the program and has been involved since its inception a decade ago.

"The new nursing graduate program at Washington Hospital trains RN's who have just graduated, and passed the RN board examination," she explains. "Our intent is to provide education and support during their transition to becoming independent practicing RNs."

The program is structured around Washington Hospital's patient population, Avila says, and addresses issues that are pertinent to the community the nurses will serve.

"Washington Hospital sees a high volume of surgical patients, including orthopedic patients from our Center for Joint Replacement," she points out. "In order to give our patients the best possible care, we have designed our new graduate program around what the new RNs will see in their clinical practice."

Washington Hospital's new graduate program provides the hospital's new RNs with a breadth of classroom and clinical training, which includes:
¥ Classroom lectures focusing on patient safety, policy review and patient populations seen commonly in the hospital. These presentations are often given by clinical nurse specialists and other health care team specialists. Subject matter includes managing bedside emergencies, neurological assessment and care for stroke patients, post-operative care and wound care.
¥ One-on-one clinical training with experienced RNs who have undergone formal preceptor training.
¥ Hands-on practice with human patient simulation mannequins designed to mimic realistic patient care situations.

New RNs are given clinical guidance and instruction by Maria Ploscaru, Staff Nurse IV, who supervises the new graduates and their preceptor and provides evaluation and feedback on their patient care, which allows the nurse to grow and become familiar with the "patient-first ethic" of the hospital.

For Sanchez, he says the mentoring and support he received during the program was just as important as the clinical and classroom training.

"Throughout the program, they told us, 'We want you to learn, we want you to be here, and most importantly, we want you to like nursing,'" he remembers. "Even when they put you on your own, you still have a preceptor who can answer your questions."

Sanchez, who was in the military before going to nursing school, said he was attracted to the profession because he likes working with people and the nurses he worked with in the military said the career possibilities in nursing were infinite.

He's not alone in his passion for patient care. Sanchez graduated from his nursing program with his fiancˇe, who just entered the new nursing grad program herself.
"I told her, 'Ask as many questions as you can, try to take as much responsibility as you can, and you always have someone to go to, including a preceptor and charge nurse,'" Sanchez says. "For new graduates going into the program, I would tell them to ask all the questions they want, and if they need help, they always have a person to turn to."

While clinical and classroom preparation are vital elements to the program, according to Avila, that's not where the story ends.

"Critical thinking and decision-making are necessary to providing the best patient care," she says. "We try to tie these things into our program. Not only are we providing clinical training, but also emotional support. RN graduates are going from being students to taking care of someone's family member."

The combination of mentorship, classroom training and clinical practice makes Washington Hospital's program unique in that not all hospitals can offer the same degree of support to their new nurses.

"Washington Hospital is very lucky to have the support of its administration, particularly our CEO Nancy Farber and Associate Administrator Jan Wood, who is responsible for the program," Avila says. "I think our hospital and the community are very lucky to have an administration that supports this type of program. It's our responsibility to the community to provide quality, safe, patient-first care. Our administration's support has been vital to our program's success."

Avila says this commitment to high quality nursing standards has made Washington Hospital a magnet for highly qualified nursing school graduates.

"In our last program, we had close to 200 applications for 17 positions that were filled," she notes. "Interest is generated primarily through word of mouth, employee referral and RN students who have clinical practice through their school at Washington Hospital. I get e-mails and calls frequently inquiring about the program."

The program benefits not only the RN graduates, but also community members, who receive a higher quality of nursing care, according to Avila.

For the new nurses at Washington Hospital, it offers them the chance to excel in their chosen profession.

"I love the program," Sanchez says. "All of the instructors were great, and the information was all there. They prepared us very well."

To see a list of current job openings at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com and click on "Careers."


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