Being a successful RN requires a lot of on-the-job nurse training, as nursing school only goes so far in preparing you to be a fully functioning nurse. A brand new nurse on a unit has a long road ahead before he or she will feel confident in their skills and abilities. An orientation program is designed to ease this transition and to ensure that the nurse has the skills and competency to provide good patient care.
The truth is, on-the-job nurse training programs are not standard and can vary greatly between facilities. Most will have a classroom portion that discusses the policies and procedures of the hospital or care facility. Then, a period of working with a preceptor typically follows. A preceptor is an experienced nurse who is responsible for "showing the ropes" of patient care and ensuring the new nurse is familiar with the workings of the unit. The time that a new nurse will spend with a preceptor is not consistent and can vary, depending on the facility and the unit.
There is a new trend in on-the-job nurse training: the new graduate nurse residency program. These programs accept multiple new graduates, and through a combination of classroom work, clinical experience and preceptorship, they help new nurses transition to full competency and confidence. Some of these programs can last up to a year, depending on the facility.
A lack of proper training for the new nurse can lead to a myriad of problems. The new nurse can feel overwhelmed by his or her responsibilities and lack of support. They may seek employment in another field or within another facility. Patient care may suffer from a less experienced nurse. It is important for employers to recognize the needs of a new nurse and to help them through this transitional period. It is also important for new graduates to advocate for themselves and their level of confidence in their nursing practice.
Nurses who have been working in the field for some time still need to keep up with their studies as medicine advances. This is typically done through continuing education credits. Many states require a certain amount of these credits to be completed each year for a nurse to retain his or her license. They are available through the Internet and cover hundreds of topics. CE credits can also be earned by completing certification classes, like ACLS (advanced cardiovascular life support) and PALS (pediatric advanced life support).
Nurse training is extensive, and is never complete. From the intense orientation of a new nurse to the continuing education of a seasoned nurse, learning is an essential part of this profession.
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