Learning to Swim
You can learn to swim by easing into the water, practicing how to float, then moving with your hands and feet. Or you can be thrown in and hope for the best.
Claire Curran, BSN, RN, much prefers the first method, and that’s what Advocate’s New Graduate Residency did for the newly minted nurse, now in her second year at Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital.
In an era when nursing shortages compel some medical institutions to fast-track new nurses to the front lines, the residency program ensures that the backbone of Advocate’s caregiving system starts professional life with a solid foundation that builds confidence and expertise.
The program was born out of a desire by the Advocate Chief Nurse Executive Council in 2015 to reach out to its incoming nurses and acclimate them to the system.
All new graduate nurses who meet certain criteria enter the program, which is designed to help them successfully navigate their first year by sharpening their critical thinking skills, building their confidence and cementing their commitment to the profession. They must have graduated from an accredited nursing program within the last year and have less than six months of clinical experience in either an inpatient or outpatient setting.
They meet one day a month for the first five months of starting as an Advocate Nurse, and then every other month for the rest of the year. These sessions blend instruction on topics such as communication skills, stress management and end-of-life care with hands-on simulations, case studies and facilitated discussions.
“I think that for anybody who graduates from college and goes into their first job, it can be a little nerve-racking. Allowing us to practice our skills really alleviates some of the stress,” Curran said. “We work with another nurse during the first 14 weeks, which I think is a really valuable experience. You always have somebody to turn to, who can watch your back.”
On the other end, according to Curran, Advocate gets well-prepared nurses, and the nurses get the side benefit of new friends who can offer support.
She and her fellow nurses in the program have built lasting alliances. “They have become some of my closest friends,” Curran said. “I don’t know how I would have coped without this program. We were always along the same path in our first year.”
Another strength of the residency is its length, she added: “I have friends in the D.C. area who had six weeks of orientation. They were pretty stressed out and didn’t feel as well prepared as I did.”
Curran, a La Grange native, graduated from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. “I knew I wanted to come back to the Chicago area,” she said, “and when I looked into nurse residency programs, Advocate’s name was always on top. Advocate does a good job of knowing that they’re going to reduce burnout if we have a strong orientation period, feel supported and are not rushed into anything.”
In aquatic terms, that means Curran is now swimming laps.