KP Program Sharpens Skills for New RNs

With a dearth of jobs in the down economy, new grads are enrolling in a new transitional program.

Appeared in: Kaiser Permanente Newsletter

By: Dolores Radding

Jeanine Clark-Kent, RN, is one of thousands of new graduates in California desperately searching for their first RN position. They entered school in a wave of students who were supposed to help fill the nursing shortage, but now find hospitals have reduced hiring in an uncertain economy.

"When I went into nursing I assumed I would find a job, maybe not immediately, but certainly within six months," said Clark-Kent.

Instead she has found the job market for new grads challenging.

"There are so many nurses out there with more experience that need jobs, too," she said. "We're usually not even considered.”

New RNs typically take their first job in a hospital, but a 2009 survey  by the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care (CINHC) found hospitals have cut back significantly on hiring. CINHC estimated that as many as 40 percent of new RN grads may not find jobs in California hospitals. Experts say the situation is worse in Northern California.

Transitioning From Student to New RN

Clark-Kent said she's grateful to be enrolled in KP Northern California's new Transition to Professional Nursing Practice program, designed to help newly licensed RN grads to improve and maintain their nursing knowledge and skills. The 15-week program enrolled 40 new grads in the first offering, all were unable to find work as an RN.

The program is a collaborative effort between KP NCAL and Samuel Merritt University with funding from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

The 24-hour-a-week program started in mid-January. Students divide their time between hands-on clinical practice with an experienced RN preceptor and simulation or classroom sessions.  NCAL's Nursing Education Manager Lyn Marshall, RN, said the curriculum is based on industry standards for post baccalaureate RN residency programs.

"It includes content they probably wouldn't get in nursing school, but is expected of nurses in a 21st century hospital," said Marshall. "We cover topics such as safety, patient-centered care, teamwork, collaboration, and quality improvement.”

KP Academic Relations Coordinator Diana Dunn, RN, said, "An RN in 2010 must master a great deal of complex information. Our program provides a structured, supported environment where new graduates can transition from student to new RN responsibilities.”

Eleven KP NCAL Hospitals Support Program

Jeanne Clark-Kent said the program has been amazing so far.

"I'm going to feel so much more ready when I have a job, and so much more confident."

According to KP Healthcare Education Management Director Peggy Hilden, KP benefits in a couple of ways.

"We're seen as a leader in the development of the nursing workforce, and if any of these new RNs are hired, they'll need less time in new grad orientation.”

Eleven KP hospitals throughout NCAL welcomed the opportunity to support the clinical portion of the training. Students also train at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek and Northbay Medical Center in Fairfield. Students are not paid, but can get academic credit towards an advanced degree.

Experts say the current staffing situation doesn't mean the nursing shortage is over. KP's transition program leaders say they're helping to ensure that qualified, well-trained RNs will be available when the economy recovers and RNs are in demand again.

For more information on the Transition to Nursing Practice program at Samuel Merritt University, go to, or contact blogue@samuelmerritt@edu.

Jeanine Clark-Kent, RN, graduated from the Samuel Merritt University Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program in November 2009.

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