Residency Helps New Nurses Prepare to Become Bedside Leaders
Oncology nurses face complexity on many levels each day. From brand-new types of cancer treatments emerging frequently to increasingly specialized oncology teams to emotional challenges that can arise from taking care of patients with cancer – it’s a lot even for experienced nurses to manage and learn; newly trained nurses may feel the learning curve to be particularly steep. To help close the knowledge and skills gap that many newly graduated nurses face, Wilmot developed an Oncology Nurse Residency Program.
A supplement to the 12-week orientation, Wilmot’s nurse residency program launched in September 2018 with a cohort of 24 new graduates or nurses with less than a year of acute care experience. The residency focuses on inpatient nurses, and the cohort meets once a month for eight hours. The day-long session includes classroom instruction, skills practice, shadowing and visits to different parts of the hospital that interface with the cancer center.
“The residency is designed to give the basics that new nurses need, to help them understand the resources available to them and to meet new people,” said Karen Abbas, M.S., R.N., AOCN, who helped establish Wilmot’s Nurse Residency program. “It emphasizes individualized growth and development opportunities to help new nurses transition from student to bedside leader.”
The classes are based on the Core Curriculum for Oncology Nursing and Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) competencies. Topics include symptom management, oncologic emergencies, nursing professional practice and patient education.
“The added education, skills and socialization components of nurse residency programs have been shown to increase new nurse satisfaction, which leads to better nursing retention,” says Deanna Drexler, MS, RN, OCN, who developed the curriculum as part of her master’s capstone project. “Ultimately, a nurse residency program is a win-win for new grad nurses, as well as the system they’ve been hired into.”
While Wilmot’s nurse residency focuses on the hard skills new nurses will use in practice, it also emphasizes the soft skills they’ll need in different situations. Those soft skills include communication and helping the new nurses understand what it means to be in the profession.
Rachel Starkweather, R.N., who joined Wilmot’s Samuel E. Durand Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit (WCC6) last year, says the residency gave her a built-in support group, and it has provided important perspective she might not have otherwise gotten.
“We recently visited infusion, and that helped me correlate what those nurses do with what we do,” Starkweather says. “And it helped me understand more what my patients go through when they’re not with us.”
In addition to the classes and other training, each nurse resident must also complete an evidence-based practice project. The projects are intended to help prepare the residents as they work to become Level III nurses, who have increased responsibilities that may include staff orientation, patient care coordination, or other unit/service activities.
For Taylor McEachon, R.N., that project is focused on eliminating unnecessary waste from WCC6. After she started on the unit last summer, McEachon began to notice how many unopened supplies were being thrown away as rooms used for blood and marrow transplant patients were cleaned. These rooms undergo special cleaning procedures to accommodate patients who have compromised immune systems.
McEachon began to wonder if unopened supplies from these rooms might be safe enough for donation through InterVol, a non-profit agency that recovers and redistributes medical supplies worldwide.
“I am hoping to see more medical supplies being donated rather than being thrown away,” McEachon says. Regardless of how her project turns out, participating in the residency program has inspired McEachon to continue her education.
“Being a part of this residency program, I have realized just how much I have learned in one year, yet how much I still have to learn,” she says. “I am excited to return to school this fall to pursue my master's in the Family Nurse Practitioner program here at the University of Rochester.”
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