Nurse residencies, or transition-to-practice programs, are an essential element to helping new nurse graduates and nurses moving into new settings begin practice in an efficient way. In 2010, the National Academy of Medicine released its landmark report “The Future of Nursing,” and recommended implementing more nurse residency programs. While multiple health systems and facilities across Oregon have implemented programs to help new nurses orient to their organizations, other smaller, stand-alone facilities can struggle to allocate staff and resources to onboard new colleagues in a structured way.

In 2018, the Oregon Office of Rural Health (ORH) commissioned the Oregon Center for Nursing to conduct a feasibility study on nurse mentoring/residency programs. The report highlighted the effect of nurse residency programs in the recruitment and retention of nursing staff, barriers smaller rural facilities face in onboarding new staff, evaluated different residency programs currently in existence, as well as participating Oregon critical access hospitals’ interest in and capacity to support a nurse mentoring program.

One program, the Iowa Online Nurse Residency Program (IONRP), fit the bill for ORH. IONRP is designed to help recent nursing graduates transition into professional nursing using a competency-based curriculum delivered via live webinars and interactive online modules. According to Rose Locklear, Field Services Program Manager, a stand-out benefit of the IONRP program is “its ability to be implemented in different ways by facilities.”  Facilities can use IONRP’s blended model to support an existing onboarding process, and facilities with more limited capacity can utilize IONRP’s online option as their transition program.

Impressed by the versatility of the IONRP program, ORH provided funding for 15 nurses from eight critical access facilities across Oregon to enroll in the program. Catholic Health Initiative St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, Oregon is one of those participants. Elizabeth Michael, Clinical Education Coordinator at CHI St. Anthony Hospital, said her facility started using the IONRP program in 2018 in addition to their existing in-house residency resources and has already seen results ranging from improved staff retention among program participants to staff engagement. “Program participants are coached through creating an evidence-based proposal to present to the facility’s administration,” said Michael. “It can be intimidating, but ultimately it empowers the nurses participating, and inspires the rest of the staff to see co-workers researching and recommending changes to the C-suite.”   

The Oregon Office of Rural Health’s innovative approach is activating rural health workforce retention, providing an opportunity for facilities to experience the power of a structured residency program. Positive outcomes may convince participants to continue investing in these programs in the future.  

For more information on the programs mentioned in this article, check out our links below.

OCN is a nonprofit organization created by nursing leaders in 2002. OCN facilitates research and collaboration for Oregon’s nursing workforce to support informed, well-prepared, diverse and exceptional nursing professionals. Recognized by the Oregon state legislature as a state advisory for nursing workforce issues, OCN fulfills its mission through nurse workforce research, building partnerships, and promoting nursing and healthcare.  

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