Clinical Education builds a core of competence and care from Day 1
When Alecia Fecteau graduated from college, she had a degree in Political Science. A few years ago, though, she was home with her 1- and 2-year-old children when she read a newspaper article about a program that would change her life – the RN Residency and Transition Program at Cape Cod Healthcare.
“I was looking for something I wanted to do, but it had to be worth it enough to make a change,” she said. “Something clicked. I went into nursing because of this program.”
The RN Residency and Transition Program at CCHC was the first ANCC-accredited program of its kind in the state and the support it offered novice nurses gave Fecteau the confidence she needed to make a complete career change.
Lynn Wenners, MSN, RN-BC, the director of Clinical Education for CCHC, said the RN Residency Program is also what attracted her to Cape Cod Healthcare. Supporting the education of nurses throughout their career has led her to roles as a nurse educator in clinical settings and in academia, where she rewrote curriculum and eased the transition of nursing students to different colleges when Quincy College ended their nursing program.
“When I look back, I’ve been an advocate for patients and quality patient care. I have a very strong passion for nursing and the future of nursing,” Wenners said. “The residency and transition program gives a great foundation to new nurses.”
As a member of the January 2021 cohort, Fecteau will be considered a novice nurse for two years. After completing the 12-week Nurse Novice course, she has a mentor who will round with her periodically to provide support and guidance.
“Having the mentor to experience difficult situations with, it’s invaluable,” Fecteau said. “When you experience your first RRT (rapid response team), when you experience your first medically fragile patient, there’s someone to back you up and give you that confidence to use your skills to the best of your ability.”
Recruiting experienced CCHC nurses to become preceptors and mentors is a priority, according to Wenners, who is hoping to develop a “ladder” plan to recognize and award nurses who take on the role of mentoring novices in their early career. Good preceptors have several common qualities: They’re very understanding of the novice nurse; very clear about their roles in their units; and show excellent critical judgment, reasoning and critical thinking.
“There’s a personal benefit. It’s being able to ‘grow’ your own, taking them under your wing and developing them,” Wenners said of the precepting experience. “There’s self-fulfillment in developing a new team member.”
Preceptors don’t need to have decades of experience to be effective as mentors and they don’t have to commit to years in the program, though Wenners said she loves when preceptors enjoy the work and stay on. To qualify, each must take an AACN Preceptor Challenge Course offered in HealthStream. Once completed, they are assigned to a cohort. There are three, 28-week cohorts, with 12 weeks of preceptorship per year.
The RN Residency and Transition Program is only a portion of CCHC’s nursing education plan. Wenners’ group is responsible for Clinical Orientation for the on-boarding of new nurses and nursing assistants.
“Anyone who touches a patient comes through us,” Wenners said. “We feel very strongly about putting people through orientation the right way so that they’re safe, they understand policies and protocols, where their resources are. We want to be sure they are given the right tools so they do the right things, so our patients get exceptional care with the best outcomes.”
Wenners’ group also manages Continuing Education Units, or CEUs, with a goal to provide relevant, on-demand and free-of-charge courses for clinical staff.
A recent CEU submission is a four-day webinar series, “Community Responders: Fighting Alzheimer’s Together During the COVID Pandemic,” that will run on consecutive Wednesdays, from May 26-June 16.
“I’m a strong believer in nursing education,” she said. “There is a lot of teamwork and opportunity. We’re always available to the nurses and CCHC.”
This feeling carries throughout the staff to novice Fecteau.
“The nurses are so supportive of you, whether it’s your preceptor or not. Everyone is working together to make sure your patients are all safe.”