To combat a projected nursing shortage that could leave 1.09 million positions open across the United States by 2024, Novant Health has launched a nurse residency program to smooth the transition from the classroom to real life. If young graduates get off to a strong start, chances are they’ll be more likely to stick with the career. Here’s what four participants had to say about their experience.

‘Every new nurse is nervous’                                            

Hayley Deindorfer, nurse resident in the NICU at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, said the program helped ease her nerves.

“I think every new nurse is nervous,” Deindorfer said. “I know I worried if I was being too task oriented or if I was managing my time well. Having other nurse residents to talk to was helpful. This program gives us an extra opportunity to come together and talk about some of the things new grads may feel from month to month. It feels like you have an extra layer of support and you don’t just get tossed into it.”

Deindorfer also participated in Novant Health’s Student Nurse Apprentice Program, or SNAP. The 10-week summer training program, completed by nursing students between their junior and senior years of college, began in the greater Winston-Salem market in 2015 and expanded to the greater Charlotte and Northern Virginia markets in 2016 and 2017.

‘You’re not alone’

Christopher Chapman, cancer-care nurse resident at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, decided he wanted to be a nurse after seeing his mom — a cancer-care nurse herself — take care of his grandfather in hospice.

“I knew I wanted to be someone who could do the same thing for other families,” Chapman said.

Chapman said he especially looks forward to the monthly forum days, where a different topic relevant to new nurses is presented. Topics can range from patient relations and communications to ethics and time management.

“On forum days, we get an opportunity to talk with our mentors,” Chapman said. “It’s helpful to talk through situations on our unit and get help figuring out the best way to handle it. These days are another reminder that we’re not alone in our experiences.”

A career-switcher finds her place

Mina Coleman, medical-surgical nurse resident at Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center, is a self-described “career-switcher.” Before going to nursing school, she was a philologist — someone who studies a combination of literary criticism, history and linguistics. She has also been a doula.

 “This is a great program to try and get into as a new nurse,” Coleman said. “If I were to do it all over again, I would take advantage of the option to rotate units. As scary as change may be, this program provides a safe opportunity for a nurse to be pushed out of his or her comfort zone. Being exposed to a variety of challenges in a variety of settings is a unique opportunity and I would highly recommend it.”

Getting comfortable in the trenches

Stephanie Sealey, critical care nurse resident at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, had been involved in health care prior to becoming a registered nurse. She worked as a licensed practical nurse at Novant Health Oceanside Family Medicine & Convenient Care for nearly three years before deciding to go back to nursing school.

“Working in the hospital has given me a completely different perspective,” Sealey said. “Now I’m in the trenches of providing care to patients who are really sick. The nurse residency program has helped validate a lot of feelings I have and has provided great support.”

Addressing the nursing shortage

It’s projected that more than one million registered nurses will reach retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years. With a significant portion of the nursing workforce aging out, there’s an emphasis on coaching up the next generation of nurses.

To best prepare these new grads, the Joint Commission accrediting agency for U.S. hospitals is recommending a standardized postgraduate nurse residency program to prepare nurses to “provide safe, high quality care in the complex and challenging environments of today’s hospitals.”

Although a standardized postgraduate nurse residency program for the United States has yet to be developed, Novant Health has taken proactive steps to help new registered nurses successfully shift from the classroom to the medical center floor.

The RN New Grad Residency Program kicked off in March 2017 with 50 nurses in the Winston-Salem and Charlotte areas. The 12-month program is designed to help ease the transition from student nurse to proficient nurse.

“For those nurses straight out of nursing school, this program provides additional support and mentorship as they ease into their first year of nursing,” said Lindsey Horne, manager of nurse residencies for Novant Health.

Nurses choose a specialty track and, during their first few months, have the option to rotate through different units. Tracks include behavioral health, critical care, emergency services, perioperative services, women’s health, medical-surgical and heart and vascular.

“Working with nurse residents on a unit level, as well as in the classroom, allows us to home in on those who may be struggling,” Horne said. “We can support them and make sure they have the confidence they need to do well.”

A second goal of the program is to help new nurses find the unit that’s the best fit for them. At the conclusion, each nurse resident applies to a unit to work in the long term.

Novant Health’s RN New Grad Residency Program is available in all Novant Health markets, with cohorts beginning in March, July and September. To date, nearly 200 nurses have participated. For details, visit NovantHealth.org/careers or call 704-384-3588.