Given a solid boost by the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 endorsement of them in its Future of Nursing report, nurse residency programs are more popular now than ever. With an aim to improve retention of new nurse grads, hospital-based nurse residencies provide a pivotal transition-to-practice period that combines educational support with real-world work.
Most studies that look at the impact of nurse residencies do so just a year or two out from completion. Recently, though, a study in The Journal of Nursing Administration took a longer-range view.
Researchers surveyed more than 500 nurses who, as new nurse grads, had completed the year-long nurse residency program at NYU Hospitals Center sometime between 2005 and 2012. Researchers wanted to gauge the effect the residency had on the professional lives of the academic medical center’s former nurse residents (NRs) years later.
Here are three findings from their investigation.
Whether they were still working at NYU Hospitals Center at the time of their survey or had moved on to other organizations, former NRs had positive takes on their residency experiences there.
“Indeed, over time, perceptions of the value of some components improve significantly; even those components that receive relatively poor ratings, for example, evidence-based practice projects and seminars, improve over time,” reported researchers Peri Rosenfeld, PhD, and Kimberly Glassman, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN.
“This suggests that former NRs…come to appreciate some elements of the nurse residency program only after several years of experience and the benefits of time.”
When asked whether they’d advise a new nurse to complete a nurse residency or to take a position with a better salary and benefits package elsewhere, between 67 percent and 73 percent of former NRs said they’d tell the novice to go with the nurse residency, according to the study.
The investigation revealed that former NRs achieved higher levels of certification, advanced education and professional accomplishments compared with national averages. Former NRs present at conferences, they publish, and they are more involved in professional associations.
Researchers reported this finding with a caveat, however.
“Without additional research, we cannot definitively tie these outcomes to the nurse residency program,” they wrote.
In other words, no one is sure at this point which came first: the desire to achieve or the nurse residency? Does a three-time Magnet-designated academic medical center that offers a nurse residency draw a higher-than-average pool of achievers? Or do the skills, support and insight gained from the nurse residency empower new nurses to accomplish more professionally?
“Empirical evidence of the outcomes of the current curriculum of nurse residency programs have not been clearly demonstrated and, quite possibly, cannot be isolated from influence of the organizational characteristics of the hospitals that offer them,” the researchers explained.
That said, the association between nurse residencies and future achievements is real, and it isn’t likely to deter anyone from the residency route.
The most valuable aspects of the nurse residency, former NRs said, were
The researchers concluded that such information provides a valuable takeaway for nurse leaders everywhere.
“Regardless of whether an institution has a formal nurse residency program,” they nudged, “nurse administrators may consider reinforcing the support, training and services provided to new graduates and new employees to impact positive, long-term outcomes.”