There’s a Reason it’s Called “Practice”

Nurse Residency Program Readies New RN Graduates for Clinical Excellence

The Mercy Health Muskegon Nurse Residency Program, in partnership with Grand Valley State University (GVSU), offers recent nurse graduates (RNs), the opportunity to voluntarily participate in the newly formed, year-long initiative aimed at creating a safe and comfortable environment for learners to grow in their nursing practice throughout their onboarding at Mercy Health.

“It gets out the jitters,” said April Lucht, RN, Mercy Health Hackley Campus. The program allows RNs to ask questions, practice clinical care simulations and create friendships with other nurses across all disciplines. While most nurse residency programs group new nurses into cohorts, which only allow for entry maybe twice per year, the Mercy Health Muskegon Nurse Residency Program accepts nurse learners on a rolling basis. “I was also told never to turn down free training,” Lucht adds, with a confident smile.

Resident Breakfast kickoffGrads at breakfast kickoffSIM in patient roomPre-meeting before SIMSIM control roomSIM observation unitNurse gathering

What makes this program really unique is the way it was designed around the precise skillset and exposure needed to succeed as a nurse at Mercy Health. For example, because of the strong and demanding stroke program, the Nurse Residency gives learners the opportunity to interact with and practice on an actual, live patient who has experienced a stroke in the past.

“We built the simulations and experiences specifically around scenarios we wanted our nurses to focus on, along with engaging our learners in policy content,” said Linda Dunmore, MSN, RN, NE-BC, CPHQ, senior director of Clinical Servicesfor Mercy Health Muskegon. “It provides a better transition from what they learned as a student to the skills they will need as a newly registered nurse.”

The goals of the program are simple: to create better outcomes for patients, see higher retention rates for nursing staff, improve team collaboration and experience greater job satisfaction as a new colleague at our organization, according to Dawn Nelson, RN, BSN, clinical resource specialist with Mercy Health Muskegon and Nurse Residency Program coordinator.

In addition to honing in on technical clinical skills, nurse participants are trained in proper communication, critical thinking, handoffs and assessment skills at a more detailed level.

While the residents gain experience practicing as a nurse, they also learn what it means to be a part of Mercy Health through built-in experiences that align with the Living Our Values curriculum. Themes such as stress management, resiliency, healing and integrity are emphasized during the team sessions with Mercy Health subject matter experts.

“I have always had an interest in continuous and quality improvement,” said Colton Bodrie, RN, float nurse at Mercy Campus. “So, I thought if I really believed in that kind of practice, I should be involved in a residency program like this,” The Nurse Residency program at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids has also been operating with much success as they’ve seen nearly ten cohorts graduate and move on to successful nursing careers.

During the four-hour monthly meetings, the simulations (SIM) seem to be the most memorable experiences for the nurse residents. Learners gather ahead of time to go over expectations for the SIM lab. Once it’s their turn to participate, nursing program leaders sit in a control room and help operate the SIM patients with voiceovers indicating various symptoms and ailments. “My head hurts, and when I cough it burns,” said one of the simulation patients. The nurse learners then have to think on their feet, review the patient’s chart and medical history, and begin to provide care in the way they feel is best. The nursing leadership team stands by and watches the entire situation unfold – holding all comments and feedback until the simulation is complete. Following the patient care experience, learners are led into a debriefing room where their leaders help them understand what went well and where there are opportunities to improve.

“I already feel more confident about my abilities, said “Cindy Leech, RN, float at Mercy Campus. “And most importantly…I know now that I’m not alone.” Daniel Huisjen, RN, Hackley North 3 and 4, added, “We are all in the same boat. We are all new. The instructors are here to help us, not to make us feel inferior.”

For more information about the Nurse Residency Programs at Mercy Health, please contact Dawn Nelson, RN, BSN, Nurse Residency program coordinator nelsodaw@mercyhealth.com

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