ASPEN, Colo. (April 11, 2023) — With healthcare workforce challenges being felt across the country, Aspen Valley Hospital is investing in our local community to “grow our own” healthcare professionals locally, starting by launching a New Graduate Nurse Residency Program, which will begin this summer with four recent graduates from nursing schools. It is modeled after other successful nurse residency programs throughout the U.S., and it is designed to introduce new nurse residents to the profession and the Hospital, integrating additional education and support from experienced nurses and other mentors.
The New Graduate Nurse Residency Program is a structured transition-to-practice program with an evidence-based curriculum through which a newly licensed nurse can continue to gain the knowledge, skills and professional behaviors to deliver safe, high-quality patient care. The year-long program includes a clinical preceptorship with highly trained preceptors and mentors as well as classroom seminars, skills labs and realistic simulation activities taught by diverse, qualified clinical faculty.
“The goal is to support new nurses with another year of intensive learning and professional support that improves patient outcomes, increases the nurses’ job satisfaction, and eases their transition to practice,” says April Roark-Gay, RN, DNP, who is charged with developing and leading the residency program.
The application period runs from April 1 through May 30. Applicants who are accepted will need to commit to two years at the Hospital, the first year in the residency program and the second year on staff.
Once accepted into the program, the nurse residents will initially be evaluated in skills labs to gain an understanding of their level of competence. They will also spend considerable time in the classroom over their first six weeks, learning about Aspen Valley Hospital’s core values, policies and procedures. After the initial training, the nurses will spend much of their time in one of the Hospital’s departments with their preceptor, learning to practice professional nursing skills and patient care. They will continue their class and lab work throughout the year under the direction of Roark-Gay.
Elaine Gerson, the Hospital’s Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer, developed the program, initiated collaboration with Colorado Mountain College, and brought in Roark-Gay to further oversee its implementation. She shares the vision behind the effort, explaining, “The residency program is inspired in part by the success of similar programs at other hospitals, and in recognition of the changes to the nursing profession over the last several years that have resulted in opportunities for nurses outside traditional hospital and practice structures. Hiring nurses has become more challenging, and the nurse residency program is one way to address that need.”
Gerson further shares, “The program is built around the Hospital’s ‘grow our own’ philosophy that focuses outreach toward graduates from area colleges and universities who already have ties to the community.” Colorado Mountain College graduates between 12-24 new nurses each year and Colorado Mesa University has many students from the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys who may want to work at Aspen Valley Hospital.
“This is one way we are honoring our commitment to the community — by employing people who live and reside here and want to be here,” Gerson says. “We are hoping they will love their work at the Hospital. We want them to stay.”
For new nurses, the program is an opportunity to enhance their skills and gain the confidence they need to succeed in the profession. Studies have shown the first six months of professional practice can be extremely challenging for new nurses, and support in a residency program can be a key to success. Nationally, 25 percent of nurses leave a position within their first year of practice.
“The reality is a lot of new graduates come to realize what they don’t know in their first six months and confidence can drop at that point, which can lead to mistakes,” Roark-Gay says. “After nine to 12 months they feel much more capable of independent practice. Our program is designed to get them to that place of confidence and competence.”
Roark-Gay was hired earlier this year to further develop and implement the program. She will lead most of the classwork and skills labs, with the help of other staff at the Hospital. She previously worked at Aspen Valley Hospital from 2009-2017 and left to pursue her Doctorate of Nursing Practice at American Sentinel University, graduating in 2020. She worked as a professor at both the College of the Florida Keys and Chamberlain University from 2017 to 2022 before returning to develop the nurse residency program.
Applicants for Aspen Valley Hospital’s New Graduate Nurse Residency Program must have a degree from an accredited nursing program in the United States, and be licensed to practice in Colorado by the time the program begins in early August. Applicants are required to have graduated within the last year and not yet worked professionally.
The application period is open now and runs through May 30. Interviews will be scheduled in June and offers made in July. The new residents will begin working in early August. To learn more and apply, go to www.aspenhospital.org/new-graduate-nurse-residency-program
ABOUT ASPEN VALLEY HOSPITAL
Founded in 1891, Aspen Valley Hospital is one of the most sophisticated rural hospitals in the U.S. With 25 beds, AVH is designated as a critical access hospital and level III trauma center, meeting the needs of the Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley communities, plus thousands of visitors from around the world every year. Combining the warmth and friendliness of a small town with the technical expertise of a major medical center, the Hospital has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Five-Star Rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for Patient Experience, among others. The Hospital offers a full range of services with board-certified specialists in 25 fields of medicine, with expanded expertise in orthopaedics and sports medicine through partnership with The Steadman Clinic. For over 130 years, Aspen Valley Hospital has been working to deliver extraordinary healthcare in an environment of excellence, compassion and trust. Learn more at aspenhospital.org or 970.925.1120.