July 6, 2021

Distinctive nurse residency program to address nursing shortage and burn out

Two nurses in an exam room

Madison, Wis. — As the United States faces a widespread shortage of nurses, UW Health has started an ambulatory nurse residency program aimed to help new nurses begin their first professional nursing job and avoid burn out.

This 12-month program began in February 2021 and was designed by UW Health for new nurses who just finished nursing school, placing them in a clinic setting (ambulatory) with a mentor (preceptor) to learn the job in a real-world setting. Additionally, the nurses take two nursing classes a month. It is designed as a supportive steppingstone for new nurses.

Burnout is a key contributor to nurses leaving the field early in their careers. New nursing graduate turnover rates are roughly 30% in the first year of practice, and as high as 57% in the second year, according to the National Health Care Retention and RN Staffing Report.

This concept is not brand new. UW Health started an inpatient nurse residency program in 2004 that helps new nurses adjust during their first year of taking care of patients in hospitals.

Since that program began, the first-year retention rate at UW Health for nurses has been 97%. The national retention average for hospitals with a nurse residency program is 91%. For hospitals that do not have nurse residency programs, the retention rate is 71%.

At UW Health, there are more than 3 million outpatient clinic visits per year and 84 clinics to serve patients, so this is an area where nurses can have diverse experiences, according to Terri White, nursing education specialist, ambulatory clinics at UW Health.

“There is this notion that new nurses have to work in a hospital setting and take care of sick patients in a hospital and you can’t work in a clinic setting until later in your career,” White said. “But clinic nursing has opportunity for extensive growth. Clinic nurses are critical parts of the healthcare team and we are here to give them the training they need to succeed in this demanding and important profession.”

By 2022, there will be far more registered nurse jobs available than any other profession, more than 100,000 per year, according to the American Nurses Association.

With more than 500,000 registered nurses anticipated to retire by 2022, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new RNs for expansion and replacement of retirees, and to avoid a nursing shortage.

“By keeping nurses in the field through a program like this, we can do our part to address this looming nurse shortage,” White said.

A new group of nurses will start in the ambulatory nurse residency program in August. The program runs two groups per year, one that starts in February and one that starts in August.