5 Things to Consider About Nurse Residencies

If you haven't had any luck applying to traditional job listings online, there is another option that you may have overlooked.  As a new graduate nurse, you can apply to nurse residency programs, which are designed specifically for new nurses with less than a year of experience to ease the transition from student to professional nurse.  

If you're a new grad nurse preparing for the job search or you haven't had any luck yet, you may want to turn your attention to nurse residencies! Nurse residency programs are extended versions of orientations that have so many resources to offer for new graduate nurses! Click through to read about the top 5 things you should consider about nurse residencies!


More Thorough than a Traditional Orientation

One of the top benefits of nurse residency programs is that the training session of a new hire is much longer than a traditional orientation.  A typical orientation spans 6-12 weeks, which for a new graduate, can feel too rushed when there is so much to learn. In most nurse residency programs, training is spread over the course of a year to ensure a successful transition as a registered nurse.  Nurse residency programs understand that one of the main stressors for a new graduate nurse is tackling the learning curve on their unit of employment.  Between learning new skills, communication techniques, equipment, and developing organization and time management habits, it is easy for new grads to get overwhelmed in the orientation phase.  Nurse residency programs help new nurses tackle the learning curves they face by allowing a longer orientation that facilitates learning not only on the unit, but also in the form of workshops and simulations.  It is common for residency programs to divide your days between working on the unit and classroom time, especially during the beginning of your program.

Designed Specifically for New Graduates

Most nurse residency programs are meant solely for new graduate nurses or nurses with less than 2 years experience.  Nurse residency programs automatically level the playing field for new nurses because prior experience does not make one applicant more favored than another.  Because nurse residency programs cater to new graduate nurses, you can relax because you know that you won’t be the only new hire on the unit.  You will have an entire cohort that you can relate to (especially those that are also on your unit) just like when you were in nursing school.

Gateways for Those Interested in a Particular Specialty

A significant benefit of nurse residencies is that they can provide a pathway for those interested in a particular specialty.  Oftentimes, new nurses know which area of nursing they like the most after several clinical rotations and a senior practicum. However, it can be disheartening when it is time to apply for jobs and the specialty you are focused on is only hiring experienced nurses at the time.  At this point, a decision must be made whether to fight for a position in the desired field or settle for a job in a high turnover specialty like Med-Surg.
Within a nurse residency program, however,  you will often see a variety of positions such as OR, pediatric, oncology, ED, women's health,  etc.  If you are serious about starting your career in a certain area, then applying to a nurse residency program could be an excellent strategy to land your dream job.

Automatically Locked in for 1-2 Years

Because hospitals are investing a lot of money and resources into nurse residency programs to provide quality mentors, classes, and opportunities, you are usually expected to agree to a 1-2 year term of employment at the completion of the residency.  While the extensive "orientation" in a nurse residency can provide comfort for a new graduate, it is also important to think about what could happen if you do not like your new job as much as you hoped.  Be sure to find out if it would be possible to swap to another specialty or if you would be trapped in something you aren't fond of for a minimum of two years. A 1-2 year term of employment may not seem like much, but including the time it takes in the actual residency program, that is a minimum of 3-4 years at a particular hospital.  It is EXTREMELY important that you research the working conditions of the hospital(s) you choose to apply.  Don't torture yourself by investing 4 years into a toxic work place.

Taking the time to answer these questions is a good start:

Do the nurses feel like they have the support of their nurse manager and the higher level nursing administrators?
Are there opportunities for advancement for bedside nurses?
Is the workload safe and fair?

Very Competitive

Nurse residencies can be extremely competitive.  It is not uncommon for nurse residency programs to attract a significant number of both local and distant applicants, especially at the most renowned medical facilities.  In order to have a solid chance of being accepted into a residency program, you need to do your research and apply early.  Check out the websites of the hospitals you want to work at and search for any mention of a new graduate program.  

Ideally, you will want to start hunting for residencies available to you a year before you graduate. This will give you more than enough time to learn about the mission and values of the organization so you know what they are looking for in an applicant.  You can also usually find the name of the coordinator or recruiter involved with new graduate nurses and it would be an excellent idea to contact them as early as possible with questions about the application process. If you are interested in applying to a residency program at a hospital where you did not have clinicals or just aren’t familiar with, definitely set aside a day where you can go visit the institution, either formally or informally!

Nurse residency programs are truly wonderful options for new graduate nurses that make a significant difference in job satisfaction and the retention of new nurses.  The extra support and training that nurse residencies offer can help new nurses feel more confident in their transition from student to professional nurse and provide an environment where new grads can comfortably ask questions and develop their skills.  

Whether you choose to apply to a nurse residency or not, above all, take the time to investigate the places where you want to work.  Make sure that you will have the support of key nursing staff like your nurse manager, nurse educator, and higher level nursing administrators.  Your first nursing job may be exactly what you want or it could be in a totally different area, but it is not to your benefit to settle working in a toxic environment. You deserve to work in a place where you feel respected and supported as a new nurse! 

Best of luck to you in your job search!  Have we convinced you to check out a nurse residency program?  What have you heard about nurse residencies?  Did this post help you in any way? Let us know in the comments below!  You know we would love to hear from you! :)