Best Practices for Accrediting Nurse Residency Programs

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This blog post is taken from our recent eBook, Do You Do a Good Job Transitioning Nurses to New Practice Settings? CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth and ANCC Show Benefits of an Accredited Nurse Residency Program. We recently had a conversation with HealthStream’s Kimberly Herold, Director of Professional Development Pathways, and Kimberley Guthrie, Senior Pathways Engagement Coach, about CHRISTUS’s experience with accrediting their nurse residency programs.

HealthStream: In working with St. Elizabeth on their application for accreditation of their nurse residency program, what stood out to you that you would want to share with other organizations that want to accredit their program?

Herold: In working with St. Elizabeth, I saw several important things come out of their accreditation process. The first is a mentorship program for nurses that picks up after the first 12 weeks of residency (the preceptorship period) ends. The idea is that for the entire residency year, there is a mentorship structure in place, and hopefully this continues beyond the first year as an ongoing support structure within the organization. Secondly, there was a real collaboration with the organization’s physicians and other internal experts, who provided important input into the program and even conducted some of the didactic learning sessions with the residents. And finally, I saw an emphasis on reflective practice as a mechanism to develop clinical judgment and intuitive practice. St. Elizabeth brought the graduates together to talk about the experiences they were having, spent time pulling the meaning out of those experiences, and discussed how to apply that knowledge to future patients. We now know the importance of this interaction and the difference it makes in patient outcomes.

HealthStream: What other best practices were evident in St. Elizabeth’s application process that would make a difference for other organizations?

Herold: Our Nurse Residency Pathway measures confidence and knowledge, and we have validation tools that measure the combination of skills and attainment of competency across knowledge, skills, attitude, and judgment in different areas. But an organization really needs to ask itself, how are we incrementally going to measure the growth and development of these nurses with regard to bedside performance? Are we certain that we are addressing gaps in performance so that our nurses continue to grow? How an organization incrementally measures their outcome goals for their nurses is something that’s highly individualized for each organization. We saw St. Elizabeth ask these questions and pursue the outcomes through their entire accreditation process.

HealthStream: What final advice would you give to other healthcare organizations that want to accredit their nurse residency program? And how does HealthStream help organizations through this process?

Guthrie: Many organizations only focus on the initial 12-week preceptorship, but I would advise organizations to look beyond this. It’s not about the transition to independent practice; it’s about the transition to professional practice, which extends through and beyond that first year. And that is what HealthStream offers with their program—a structure and a process that helps organizations develop the transition to professional practice beyond what most organizations have today.

Herold: Most importantly, organizations need to decide what kind of residency program they want. From there, the entire organization must make a unified commitment to move forward. Another thing I’ve observed is that if at all possible, the number of cohorts should be limited and scheduled for certain times of the year. Customers that face the biggest challenges are the ones who are continuously bringing in new residents, rather than two or three cohorts a year. And finally, HealthStream is unique to the industry in the level of support we provide. Our program is structured yet flexible, and we are there for the customer every step of the way. We coach our customers through 15+ standard coaching events which include readiness assessments, finalizing curriculum, setting up the cohort, making assignments, and ensuring that launch day goes smoothly. And then we look at data at key points along the way, help our customers to make sense of it, identify strengths and gaps, and make program changes based on that feedback. We are able to work with customers who are starting with nothing or who already have a program in place and a vision of where they want to go. Our goal is to meet each hospital where they are and journey with them. Every organization has something that makes them unique, and we truly believe that each nurse residency program needs to be individualized to that uniqueness. Every organization has something that makes them unique, and we truly believe that each nurse residency program needs to be individualized to that uniqueness.

Access the full eBook here.