Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Key with "help&support" on the keyboard

According to Gallup, Gen Z and millennials make up 46% (nearly half) of the full-time workforce in the US. When asked about what they want from the workplace, employers who support their well-being topped the list.   Additionally, they want leaders who hear their concerns, are committed to quality work, and are transparent.  Feeling like their unique contributions are respected is also essential, along with a sense of belonging and investment through professional development, coaching, and career growth.   

As I reflected on the expectations of nearly half of our workforce and likely most new graduate nurses, I wondered how our residency program could be a tool to support an organization in its efforts to meet these needs. The Online Nurse Residency Program offers professional development of competencies often needing further development upon entering practice.  The cohort discussion, resiliency training, and opportunities for connection with program facilitators and other new graduates help support well-being. At the same time, the residency project provides an opportunity to make a unique and meaningful contribution to improving the quality of work in the organization.  By including monthly check-ins with a support person, participants have even greater opportunities to engage in further coaching, develop connections, and give them the sense of belonging they crave.  Monthly check-ins provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about the nurse, their struggles, passions, and future goals.  They also allow opportunities to engage these nurses in organizational activities that fit their interests, helping them see how they can reach many of their career goals by remaining with the organization.    

This program provides a solid foundation to meet many of the expectations for these new generations. However, I have seen a marked difference in how successful some organizations are in implementing the program and retaining nursing staff participating.   While there are several differences among organizations, including things like location, pay, and culture, one key thing that seems to be the most significant difference is the engagement of the support person. While I haven’t formally collected data on this, discussion with both residents and onsite coordinators indicates engaging with participants regularly throughout the program is a clear game-changer for success. But why? The information provided by Gallup might just be the answer. If you think about it, what good is professional development if you don’t feel like you belong to the profession and organization?   

For years, I've touted our all-online option of this program as an ‘all-inclusive' resource. The reality is, that term has not served us well. By calling it an all-inclusive program, I've given nurse leaders the idea that this is something that you can set in motion and then take your hands off. While it is true that we do most of the work when it comes to facilitating this program, it's not truly ‘all-inclusive'. There is a vital piece of this program that you MUST do, and only YOU can do.  You must regularly engage with your participants.  We can do a lot for you, but WE can’t help them feel a sense of belonging at your organization; that can only come from you.  Engaging with new nurses can easily be done through monthly check-ins. Not only does this allow nurse leaders to connect with recent graduates on the competencies discussed in the program, but it gives the structure to hold conversations in which they feel genuinely cared about and connected to the organization. You can communicate how much you care about them, about what they've experienced, and learn about how things are working out with their preceptor or their unit.  

When you first bring the program to your organization, we ask that you identify somebody who can support this person. Whether the onsite coordinator, mentor, or manager, you must have somebody to connect with that new nurse. That doesn't mean that they must spend hours with the individual or have to come up with new and different things to teach them. They just have to take time at least once a month to say,  

“Hey, how's it going? I heard you were talking about... Have you run into any issues? That's going well, great! Where do you need help? You need help with clinical skills? Great, here are some resources. You're thinking about wanting to cross-train? Great, why don't we see if we can get you a couple of days to job shadow to make sure it will be a good fit.  You're thinking about going back to school? Here are some other nurses that are working on their BSN. Maybe they can answer some questions about how to balance work and home and life.”  

That’s it. Sounds simple, right? Forging that connection and taking the time to support the new graduate isn't hard, but it does take nurse leaders getting intentional and prioritizing chunks of time to do so. If you have previously enrolled participants in our program with less-than-ideal success or are looking to enroll new graduates in the future, keep this in mind. Nurse leaders don’t have to put a lot of resources into this program, but providing that support person is vital.  

O'Boyle, E. (2021, March 30th). 4 things Gen Z and millennials expect from their workplace. Gallup.  https://www.gallup.com/workplace/336275/things-gen-millennials-expect-workplace.aspx   

Nicole Weathers, Program Manager, IONRP nicole-weathers@uiowa.edu