Nurses helping nurses learn the ropes
Despite the fact that Hamish Wilkinson was an accomplished registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a Master’s degree in public health, the thought of working the emergency room floor at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis after his 2008 graduation was intimidating.
“I had never worked in a hospital before and I was nervous about the unknowns and situations that I hadn’t come across before,” he said. “Even though I had been trained extensively in school, it’s an entirely different thing when you hit that floor.”
Instead of entering into uncharted waters without a life vest, Wilkinson’s journey as a novice, also known as a “rookie” registered nurse, began with four months of training at the hospital. Much of that time he spent with a preceptor – a nursing teacher and instructor – through Cape Cod Healthcare’s Novice Nurse Transition Program.
New Nurses Develop Critical Thinking Skills
The program includes a 12-week orientation program that offers:
- Weekly objectives for each novice
- Nursing core curriculum competencies to foster professional development
- A nurse and preceptor pairing
- Education classes
- Weekly meetings with novice nurses, preceptors, nurse managers and clinical educators
The Novice Nurse Transition program is designed to help new nurses who are entering the acute care environment, including the operating room, emergency room, critical care units and the birthing centers.
New hires in groups of roughly 15 enter the program at both Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital intermittently, and are paid for regular hours as they work along with preceptors during day and night shifts.
While the Novice Nurse Transition Program has been around for quite some time, senior clinical educator for Cape Cod Healthcare, Cheryl Brennan, MSN, RN has been further developing the educational and training program for new acute care nurses over the last five years.
Recently, the program made history when it became the first of its kind in Massachusetts to be accredited from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
The program is built upon the theoretical framework of Dr. Patricia E. Benner, author of “From Novice to Expert,” which assesses nurses’ needs at different stages of professional growth.
While the curriculum has always included on-floor training and nurse and preceptor pairings, it now also covers 10 “nurse of the future” core competencies like:
- Evidence-based practice
- Informatics and technology
- Teamwork and collaboration
“When our new hires come in, we need to ensure that they can execute skill sets as expected, utilize technology, and safely provide patient care on a regular basis,” Brennan said. “We have now developed a fairly consistent evidence and research-based process that has been tested over time and confirms that our nurses will be best served with a clear cut defined plan.”
Nurse Novices Stay Longer
The novice program is also an investment that helps the hospital retain staff “highly skilled and educated” nurses, said Kathleen Tardy, MSN, RN, director of clinical education at Cape Cod Healthcare. This is particularly important due a projected shortage of registered nurses in the U.S. that is expected to intensify as Baby Boomers retire and the need for skilled professionals increases.
“The time and effort we are putting into our novices makes them stronger nurses, which is exactly what we want as they care for family and friends,” Tardy said. “Our novice program keeps our nurses engaged and challenges them as they grow professionally.”
For Wilkinson, the experience – both as a novice, and later a preceptor – opened his eyes to what working in the emergency room at Cape Cod Hospital is really like, and what it takes to acclimate to the rapid work environment. While being a preceptor takes “a lot of patience,” it’s worth the time and effort because he’s helping strengthen the emergency room team, he said.
“Every day is different and I want to show new hires from day one how they can absorb and prepare for what they will encounter on the floor but also what resources they need to make good decisions,” he said. “It’s exhausting and stressful for all novices in the beginning, but it’s our job to help them become prepared, confident and ready to go out there and save people’s lives. and I love helping them do that.”
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[Sidebar Photo: Falmouth Hospital RN Novice Program participants]