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February 14, 2012 > New graduate program provides support, mentorship

New graduate program provides support, mentorship

A Nurse's Journey: From Student to Caregiver

Beginning a new job is always a little scary. For new nursing school graduates, add in the stress of caring for living, breathing, feeling patients, and it can be a hundred times more so-unless, of course, they receive specialized training to ease the transition from student nurse to practicing

In order to bridge this gap between nursing school and professional practice for newly hired nursing school graduates, Washington Hospital has in place a comprehensive new graduate orientation program that ensures these nurses get the knowledge and skills they will need to practice excellent patient care.

"When the new graduates complete the program, they're more comfortable and confident to work with complex cases involving patients with multiple health issues," says Sam Avila, R.N., nurse manager of Washington Hospital's
Simulation Center and New Nursing Graduate Program. "You can't just go from nursing school and jump right into acute care practice. These nurses are going from being students to taking care of someone's family member. We're there to provide the extra information and guidance to become a successful nurse."

Newly hired nurses at Washington Hospital receive clinical training from practitioners from all over the hospital, including respiratory therapists and dietitians. During this period, they also learn about the hospital's quality and
patient safety initiatives, safety standards, and policies and procedures, including compliance with evidence-based protocols and appropriate communication practices, Avila says.

Working Together

The program lasts between eight and 10 weeks, with two and a half weeks of classroom training spread throughout a preceptorship - a period of time in which an experienced nurse is paired with a new graduate to work together, allowing the new grad a chance to learn and apply knowledge and skills in the practice setting with the help of a more seasoned nurse.

During this time, new nursing school graduates - like Amanda Norrish, R.N. - become familiar with everything from the patient populations they serve to the equipment they use. They get an overview of other employees they will come into contact with in their day-to-day operations, as well as a tutorial about every nursing unit, from wound and ostomy care to joint surgery.

Norrish went through the program when she joined the hospital in April of 2010 after graduating from an entry-level master's degree program in nursing at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland.

"I think the new graduate program helped me gain more confidence and helped me transition into the nursing profession," Norrish recalls, adding that the preceptorship was a vital part of the process. "I think that's really helpful - to
have the one-on-one time with someone a couple of years ahead of you. It's so important to have the opportunity to ask questions."

A Support Team

Norrish says she also appreciated working with ancillary staff and learning about resources available to nurses that aid in patient care, as well as the supportive team environment she enjoyed with other new graduates.

"It was just a really good program to transition from being a student into more of a professional nursing role," she says. "The instructors emphasized the critical thinking aspect of the role as nurse, and they really focused on thinking about each patient as a whole."

Avila says the program plays a significant role in supporting the professionals whose main goal is to provide care in line with the hospital's guiding principle, the Patient First Ethic.

"I think it's really important for us to have the program for both the clinical training and ongoing emotional support that new grads receive, because it is a big adjustment going from student nurse to practicing R.N.," Avila says.

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