A Year in Nursing Life: The UHC Residency Program

Every year approximately 300 new nursing school graduates come to MedStar Washington Hospital Center to start their careers.

To transition these new nurses to the practice environment, and to educate them about the systems and practices in use in the Hospital Center’s clinical environment, the Department of Nursing adopted the University HealthSystem Consortium (UCH)/ AACN Residency Program four years ago. Currently offered in 30 states, the year-long residency serves as a framework, to help take nurses from novice to competent provider.

The program “formalized our residency program, put us in line with the top national standards and reduced turnover of our newest nurses,” says Janis Donnelly, MBA, MS, BSN, vice president of Nursing Excellence. “It gave us an educational framework that works for us.”

Yet the residency program “is always being improved,” notes Michael Clarke, MSN, RN, director of Nursing Education. "We recently designed the curriculum to include more focus on professional development and engaging new nurses into their transition into practice."

Nurses spend their first three months alternating between classroom learning and working with a clinical coach on their unit. “They have to know how to work the Pyxis® medication delivery system to know how to recognize a Code Blue and what to watch for during a transfusion,” says Clarke. “There’s a lot going on with our patients, and nurses need to know how to handle all the variables that come into play.”

Also important, says Clarke, is the evidence-based research project that all new nurses conduct over their first year. “We continue to redesign them to encourage nurses to produce evidence-based practice posters and public presentations to disseminate their findings.”

“There’s a lot of critical thinking and colleague education involved with these projects,” he says. “It’s a great introduction to nursing education." 

To enroll in the more than 80 classes offered to nurses through nursing education, go to StarPort and click on the tab “Departments—Nursing.” Then click on the Education and Professional Development box at the bottom of the page—the course catalog will come up. Also: look for the new downloadable “Ask NED” app that will update you on a mobile device any time new classes are added.