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Nurse Residency Program supports personal and professional growth

May 02, 2016

Whether a nurse, doctor or other health care provider, for many there was a defining moment in their lives when they realized they wanted to become a caregiver.

For Will Castro, RN, that moment came when his father was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2011.

“My father had taken care of me all of my life, and I wanted to be able to care for him now,” said Castro, who soon found himself at Elms College where last summer he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN).

But, as graduation came closer and closer, along with the reality of leaving the warmth and comfort of the nursing classroom behind, Castro, who lives in Ludlow, said he found himself stressing over having to take his nursing board exam and questioning if he was truly ready to enter the “real world” of patient care.

“Fortunately, Cara Chandler from Baystate Medical Center came to the Elms to talk about the Nurse Residency Program offered by the hospital. After hearing how the program was designed to help new graduate nurses successfully transition from student to professional, I knew right away that I had to apply for the program,” Castro said. “When I received the phone call learning that I had been accepted into the program, I was thankful and humbled….so excited because I truly knew that I was on my way to becoming the nurse I wanted to be.”

About the program

Baystate’s Nurse Residency Program is a one-year curriculum for newly-graduated registered nurses, offering hands-on clinical experience, in-depth learning through monthly seminars, participation in evidence-based projects which residents conduct and later present on, and ongoing professional development. New graduate nurses participating in the program gain invaluable experience with the mentoring guidance of Baystate staff nurses.

“Essentially, we recognized the need to develop a strategy for ensuring that we have the nurses we’ll need to provide exceptional care to our patients in the future, and to retain them once they begin working with us,” said Chandler, MS, RN, CNL, manager of the Nurse Residency Program. “Nurse residency programs are one of the principal strategies employed around the country today to retain nurses.”

Baystate developed its Nurse Residency Program in collaboration with Vizient, formerly known as the University HealthSystem Consortium, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Retaining nurses in the workforce

Chandler said Dr. Mark A. Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health has a special appreciation for and supports the Nurse Residency Program.

“As a former employee of Vizient, Dr. Keroack truly comprehends the importance of nurturing new nurses and the need to retain quality nurses in the workforce,” she said.

Vizient, Inc., the largest member-owned health care company in the country, is dedicated to serving members and customers through innovative data-driven solutions, expertise and collaborative opportunities that lead to improved patient outcomes and lower costs.

The Baystate Nurse Residency Program supports new nurses in their personal and professional growth by providing:

  • A unit-specific orientation during which participants will partner with a dedicated Registered Nurse Preceptor
  • Mentored clinical relationships to enhance the residents competency in caring for the adult acute care medical/surgical patient
  • Membership in a supportive clinical environment where it feels safe to share learning experiences.

Developing knowledge and skills

When new RNs graduate from the program, they will have the knowledge and skills to:

  • Develop effective decision making skills related to clinical judgment and performance
  • Provide quality clinical nursing leadership at the point of care
  • Incorporate research based evidence linked to practice outcomes into patient care
  • Thrive in a fast-paced, Level 1 Trauma/academic medical center environment.

While beneficial in helping new nurse graduates transition from the academic world to their clinical roles at the bedside, the Baystate Nurse Residency program offers dual benefits, noted Chandler.

“It gives these new nurses a greater understanding from a health system perspective about Baystate’s strategic goals, further making them feel a part of the organization,” she said.

Chandler said the “beauty of the program for new nurses” is that they are hired as a paid registered nurse working on a specific unit in the hospital. Nurse residents work full time schedules with most benefits beginning on the date of hire, with accrued paid vacation and sick time off in the same manner as any other new staff nurse.

Continued employment after the residency

“We are often asked by applicants if they will still be employed by Baystate and the unit they practiced on during the one-year paid program,” said Chandler.

The nurse resident applies to a specific clinical area and remains in that clinical area for the entire residency program to provide optimal clinical experiences. The applicant applies to the position they are interested in and, if hired, they will remain in the position after completion of the Nurse Residency Program.

Castro, who worked as a patient care technician (PCT) in the Baystate Emergency Department while attending the Elms for his nursing degree, said when it came time to choose the clinical area for his residency that he was “torn” between the Emergency Department and Critical Care Medicine.

“I was familiar with the Emergency Department and accustomed to the environment….it was my home. I was afraid that my co-workers would be disappointed if I didn’t choose the ED, but the nurse educators in the department supported a residency in critical care. They knew me better than I knew myself, and told me that I would be much better off with a residency in critical care, which would sharpen my nursing skills should I want to return to emergency medicine someday….that the emergency room is not the place to sharpen your skills right out of nursing school,” said Castro.

Opportunity for growth

The current nurse resident said the biggest takeaway for any nurse considering the residency program is the tremendous opportunity it offers them for growth.

“If you want to grow as a nurse and realize the true potential you are capable of, then allow yourself to be challenged by Baystate’s Nurse Residency Program. I’m thankful to be a part of it,” said Castro, who will graduate from the program in September.

Lauren Derouin, RN, who graduated from the Baystate Nurse Residency Program two years ago, and who continues to work on the medical telemetry unit where she was trained as part of her residency, agrees with Castro about the value of the residency program.

“I feel as if it made the transition easier for me from student to textbook knowledge to real life as a nurse at the bedside,” said Derouin, who earned her BSN from UMass Amherst.

“The monthly seminars were extremely beneficial and just awesome. Not only did they offer us a supportive environment to come together as nurse residents to share our thoughts and challenges, but the seminars also provided us with additional knowledge about the hospital we were working in and the role nurses play in the overall organization and its mission,” added the Easthampton resident.

For associate degree nurses, too

Baystate’s latest nurse residents graduated from the program in March. They join over 170 other nurse residents who have been hired by Baystate Medical Center since the first class began in June 2013.

The hospital also has a Nurse Residency Program to support associate degree nurses (ADN) who have never worked as an LPN or RN. The special associate degree Nurse Residency Program is available only for staff currently employed by Baystate Health, who will graduate with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing.

Candidates for the Nurse Residency Program – those who have not been employed in an RN role – should check the nursing job postings under Baystate Career Opportunities for “New BSN Grad Residency Program” and “New ADN Grad Residency Program” positions. Clinical areas may vary seasonally, depending on the current staffing needs of Baystate Medical Center. Those interested in the residency program should check in late winter (February) for July and September start dates, or fall (October) for a March start date.