The Path to Professional Practice

Samuel Merritt University RN residency program offers new grads a foot in the door

Appeared in: ADVANCE for Nurses

By: Candy Goulette

Sally Wirthman, BSN, RN, just wants to work as a nurse.

Wirthrnan had been a teacher and reading specialist in the Berkeley area for more than 10 years when she heard about the nursing shortage. She had always been attracted to the profession and knew it was inflation proof, so she entered the Samuel Merritt University (SMU) Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program and earned her degree in 12 months, graduating in May 2009. She expected to find hospital doors open wide for her and her classmates, but instead found brick wall after brick wall.

"It's been so disheartening" Wirthman said. "I got straight As, got the highest possible recommendations. I thought I'd find a job right away, but after 6 months, I still couldn't find a job"

Then, one day while looking at the SMU Web site, she found the next best thing - an RN residency.program she could attend for free that could ultimately transition her into a position as a working RN.

Making the Transition

The SMU Transition to Professional Nursing Practice program is deSigned for new grads like Wirthman who were unable to find a job. Overseen by Brandy Logue, MSN, RN, the program will put 50 unemployed new grads, who have passed the NCLEX and are RNs, into hospitals and home care in both Sacramento and the Bay Area for a 15-week internship. Arlene Sargent, EdD, MSN, RN, associate dean for academic programs at SMU, said the program was only advertised on the Web site for 2 weeks. In that time, she received 70 applications for the 50 available slots.

Candidates were required to be graduates of nursing schools in five Bay Area counties (Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo or Santa Clara) or Sacramento, with current California RN licenses. Preference was given to BSN graduates and to those who had been out of school the longest. Participants who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion; any ADN grads may receive credit toward a BSN, and BSN grads may receive credit toward an MSN after completing a project.

The selected candidates are mostly Mayor June 2009 graduates, but there are two who graduated in May 2008 who had not been able to find work. Of the total, 75 percent are SMU grads, from either the ABSN or generiC BSN programs. The majority of placements will be in Kaiser Permanente facilities in the Bay Area and Sacramento, as well as John Muir Medical Centers in Walnut Creek and Concord. The majority of placements will be in medl surg to give the new grads a grounding experience.

"Kaiser Permanente is proud to be a major clinical partner in this new program," said Diana Dunn, MSN, RN, professional nursing education consultant and academic relations coordinator for Kaiser Permanente Northern California Patient Care Services.

SMU is offering the program pro bono to the hospitals as well. Sargent said the program was the embodiment of the university's mission and values.

"It's an incredible win-win situation for the nurses and for the hospitals involved," Sargent said. "They can orient new grads for 15-16 weeks at no cost. Samuel Merritt is providing clinical faculty, liability insurance and didactic practicums. The primary cost to the medical centers is the allocation of preceptors for each of the nurse residents."

Sargent said the primary motivator for the development of the new RN residency program was that it aligned with the university's commitment to support its new graduates during a difficult economic time.

"Sharon Diaz, [PhD], SMU preSident, said we have a responsibility to assist our graduates in this tough time," Sargent said. "So our nursing faculty is donating time to develop a curriculum, do clinical practicums, complete assessments on the new grads and provide an orientation as well as weekly reviews of the residents' clinical logs of their learning experiences. We anticipate running three cohorts a year over 2 years."

On the Floor

The 50 new RN grads will all go through a thorough skills assessment before being placed in a facility. Preceptorships will be tailored to their particular skill level. Any participant who finds a job prior to 8 weeks into the program will withdraw from the program. After that, each situation will be individually reviewed to determine if they can complete the residency and accept employment.

"We developed a really good program that will allow nurses to work on any shift depending upon the hours of their preceptor," Sargent said. "We incorporated QSEN (Quality & Safety Education for Nurses) and clinical reasoning, with one didactic or simulation day every other week. We'll discuss cultural competency, evidencebased practice, pain management - as well as anything the residents bring to the group from their experiences with their preceptors. The new grads are excited to have their experience tailored to their needs based on their initial competency assessment."

Sargent noted the medical centers working with the new grads will reap many benefits. It gives them an opportunity to "tryon" the nurses before actually hiring them, or finding out if they're a fit for the facility's culture. She hopes many will find employment after the program's end.

"The bottom line is it keeps them in the profession and builds their confidence and competencies," Sargent said. "In the past, medical centers routinely took on 15-20 new grads, so having to deal with one or two RN residents will be much easier. It's a plus all the way around."

That's how Wirthman sees it as well.

"I am so excited about getting back into a hospital," shesaid. "I was pretty high up in my field before, but I didn't enjoy it. I love nursing and can hardly wait to be able to do what I love."

'The bottom line is it keeps them in the profession and builds their confidence and competencies.'

-- Arlene Sargent, EdD, MSN, RN


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