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Nurse residency program gains ground


The nurse residency program at Kalispell Regional Healthcare (KRH) is leading the way for new nurse development in Montana. As the first program of its kind in the state, participation has been steadily growing since its official start in July 2015. Newly licensed nurses from all over the country apply to receive 12 months of training and support to help transition to clinical practice. The most recent cohort includes nearly a dozen nurses who have been placed in medical, surgical, oncology, transitional and intermediate care units, and the program is expanding further to other specialty areas like critical care, psychiatry and maternal newborn care. All residents undergo an intensive clinical orientation, biweekly trainings and leadership development, and complete the program with a formal evidence-based practice project.

Mandy Pokorny, KRH nurse residency program coordinator, says the team has worked hard to formalize the program and provide a solid foundation for nurses joining the workforce. “The program aims to help establish clinically sound, professionally engaged and emotionally resilient nurses at the bedside, and really grow the KRH team from the ground up,” Pokorny said.

Support and guidance during the first year of nursing is critical. Nationwide, nursing turnover in the first year of hire can be as high as 60 percent, with half of those nurses leaving the profession altogether. Nurse residency programs are key to combating this statistic. Most of the nurses who complete the KRH program not only remain employed with KRH, but train into specialty areas and/or become preceptors and clinical experts on their units, adding to the strong team of skilled nurses who share their expertise with future residency groups.

The nurse residency team’s effort has not gone unnoticed. In November 2017, the KRH nurse residency program was awarded accreditation with distinction by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) practice transition accreditation program, the highest recognition awarded by the ANCC program. KRH is the first health care system in the state of Montana to be awarded this distinction and is one of only 30 ANCC accredited programs in the nation. The ANCC appraiser team commended the program on its robustness, especially considering the small size of the hospital and limited resources.

Pokorny describes the program’s success as an absolute team effort: “This process has been a lot of work and a true pleasure to be a part of. It takes a village to create a successful environment for our nurses transitioning into the profession, and I am proud to see that we are heading in the right direction. Collaboration is key, and I can’t speak highly enough of the good work and support from our executive leadership team, nursing directors and managers, expert clinical nursing staff, clinical educators, preceptors, interdisciplinary teams, human resource partners and academic partners. We look forward to continuing to grow and refine our program in the upcoming years.”

Congratulations to the nurse residency program team and everyone involved who has been working hard to make this program a success!

Learn more about the KRH nurse residency program.