Changes In Nursing Residency Programs Benefiting Hospitals & Nurses

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For generations, new medical student graduates have moved on to residencies to complete their training.  Now at a growing number of hospitals, nurses are doing the same.

Melissa Hopkinson graduated from the OSU College of Nursing last year.  Now, the Virginia native is doing a year of nurse residency at the OSU James Cancer Hospital.  Just as doctors move from the classroom to supervised residency programs, now more nurses are choosing that path, too.

"It's a transition from being the student, to actually being a nurse,” explains Melissa Hopkinson, R.N.  "(Its) very scary.  It's a whole new world."

Nursing Education Director Sharon Steingass knows young nurses struggle with the transition.  She says OSU Wexner Medical Center was a pioneer in 2007 when it first offered nurse residencies.  Now, it trains 60 nurses a year.  The residents get help from more experienced colleagues and guidance in how to handle the unexpected.

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"I have someone there to back me up at all times,” says Hopkinson.  “I'm not alone in this.  That it's just an army of nurses."

Steingass says that means better patient care.   "It helps us with those outcomes of reducing mortality related to infections that occur, falls that occur at the bedside, or other hospital acquired conditions."

There's another benefit, too. As a generation of nurses retires, the residents provide a source of new staff.  Steingass says nurses who go through the residency program stay with them.

That's important, because losing a nurse can cost a hospitals thousands – money that can be spent for recruitment and training.

Around the country, the average cost is anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000, according to Steingass.

For Melissa, its a boost of skills and confidence.  "This is your life.  This is your career, and you've got other people's lives in your hands, that you're taking care of."

Steingass says more than 200 hospitals around the country now offer nurse residency programs.