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Nurse Residency: Making a Difference One Nurse at a Time

Make a difference

As a nurse leader, do you ever wonder if what you are doing is really making a difference? I mean, all the work and stress that you do day in and day out, does it really matter? I have found that in every role I have had as a nurse, I wonder this from time to time. It didn’t matter if I was working as a nurse on a MedSurg unit, as a diabetes educator in the outpatient setting, or a nurse educator working with staff or students, I have often times wondered if what I do really makes a difference. I would venture to guess I am not alone in this!

The cool thing, however, is that it seems that each and every time I get stuck wondering this for very long, a sign from the Universe comes along that tells me what I am doing does matter, that it is important, and that I do make a difference in the lives of those I work with. I think it is one of the joys of our profession as nurses. I can recall specific patients throughout my career that I have forged a connection with, that have reached out positively to thank me for what I had done. But it doesn’t stop at the bedside ... in my role as a diabetes educator, I vividly remember patients who had great success with weight loss and reducing their A1C after working with me and the dietician for several months--and their gratitude for providing them with the tools they needed to be successful. I can recall training and mentoring new nurses in the hospital setting that thanked me for the support they received during their career. However, in my time working with this program, those thoughts of really wondering if what I am doing matters come a little more frequently. Recently, I found myself wondering why this was ... what had changed? I imagine this has something to do with the fact that those I work with each day are on the other side of a phone or computer screen. See, much of my role is done remotely with facilities and residents from across the country. Not very often do I get the pleasure of working face-to-face with the sites and residents that participate in our program. That is, until this last week!

Two residents that recently finished our program here in September had the opportunity to present their residency projects at a district-level meeting for our Iowa Organization of Nurse Leaders. Not only did they get invited to share the work they had done with their project, but I got the opportunity to attend and meet the site coordinators, mentors, and residents I had been working with virtually for an entire year. It was such a joy to watch each resident present and talk about the hard work they had put into their residency project. I was so impressed by what they had accomplished. While I had been supporting and facilitating completion of this project for the last six months, it was still impressive to see these two new nurses get up in front of a room full of nursing leadership and share their success. I also had the opportunity to meet them afterwards and hear more about their experience.  

Like I said earlier, just when you wonder if what you are doing is worth it, the Universe sends a sign at the right time to let you know it really counts. Amanda Huynh was my sign. She shared with me how much she enjoyed the program, how beneficial it was to her, and how it was just what she needed to make that transition from a student to a professional nurse.  

 Here is what Amanda had to say:

“I didn’t start out being a nurse. I started out wanting to be a veterinarian. I got my B.S. in Animal Science (Animal Behavior focus) with a Minor in Psychology. Then I decided I didn’t want to be a vet! So for several years I used my degree as a personal/office assistant to a veterinary behaviorist/author/lecturer. As you can imagine, I acquired a wide variety of skills in this position. 

When it was time for a career change, I spent a few years as a CNA before getting my LPN. I then worked part time as an LPN while getting my RN. I graduated knowing how to take care of people’s medical, mental, and emotional well-being. But I didn’t know how to be a NURSE. 

The Iowa Online Nurse Residency Program taught me how to be a nurse. I learned prioritization in the real world when two doctors are demanding your attention at the same time while an admit is coming at shift change and the patient you were about to discharge starts to have chest pains. I learned how to function in a team and resolve conflict so that we can all focus on caring for our patients. I learned how to communicate important information to providers quickly. I learned there is a right and a wrong way to delegate, although I still do it the wrong way 90% of the time. J I learned how changes to policy or procedure occur, and how to initiate and follow-up on them myself. 

Without the nurse residency program, it would have taken me several years to figure all of these things out on my own. Within three months of starting the program, I went from being completely overwhelmed by everything I didn’t know, to having confidence in my abilities. I truly believe the residency program saved my sanity this past year."

How is that for a sign?! It was so affirming to hear this from Amanda ... and guess what? The best part is she isn’t alone! Two of her co-workers who are currently enrolled in the program are thinking and feeling the same way. While I don’t always see the outcomes of this program come to life, I truly believe in the work I do each day. This program is based on research. We know what the evidence says when it comes to new graduate nurse transition to practice. We are in a unique position; however, because we work with all sorts of facilities from across the country that range from less than 25 beds to more than 500! We are the only program (to my knowledge) in the USA that offers nurse residency virtually connecting new graduates from rural facilities across the country. Since no one else has done this, there isn’t any past research that tells us if that piece is effective or not. Although we’re still lacking research that speaks specifically about online residency programs, all of our program from the curriculum topics to the various components are based on what the research says works. We are just delivering it in an innovative format to reach rural nurses and provide alternative options to those larger facilities wanting to deliver their program more efficiently. 

So why do I wonder if I make a difference? Sure, we see it on the program evaluations that nurses are experiencing an increase in comfort, confidence, job satisfaction, communication, leadership, and much more ... but that just isn’t the same as seeing and hearing it from a living breathing human being. Unfortunately, in my role, I don’t get to meet these new graduates in person very often. I don’t get to follow them after graduating from the program to see them continue to flourish as a professional. I don’t get to see them in the hallway or hear of their growth in the hospital newsletter to remind me more frequently that this program really does make a difference. So, for today, I will take this nice little reminder from Amanda that there is a lot of good coming from what we do with the Iowa Online Nurse Residency Program. 

Have you or someone you know experienced great outcomes from participation in the Iowa Online Nurse Residency Program? Contact us to let us know.

We would love to hear from you!  

Posted On: 
Feb 4th, 2019