Allina plans to establish RN residency

Alan Condon – Becker’s Clinical Leadership

Minneapolis-based Allina Health is tackling the nursing shortage through various long-term initiatives, including improved orientation programs, developing initiatives for nurse leadership and establishing an RN residency program.

The health system paused its plan to create a nurse residency program shortly after the pandemic hit, but kicked off an interim program in 2023 that was well-received by debut participants. Now the goal is to develop and expand the program before seeking accreditation.

“Health systems that have residency programs generally see a much lower rate of first-year turnover in nurses and new graduate nurses,” April Prunty, PhD, RN, Allina’s director of nursing professional development, told Becker’s. “It is an absolute priority for us as we aim to stabilize our workforce amid some challenging nursing workforce trends nationally.”

Last year, the program length was 12 hours, divided into three four-hour sessions. The initial goal was to build a community and engage in reflective dialogue across various topics, including well-being and clinical ethics.

“It was a great opportunity to create a community across nursing, particularly as we were coming out of the pandemic and welcoming new graduates whose clinical experience had been incredibly disrupted due to COVID,” Dr. Prunty said.

Another important piece of the program was to make it accessible, as Allina’s new graduate nurses were spread across a wide geographic area. The system did not want travel to be a burden, so participants were able to attend in-person or virtually.

“Overall, we had 375 participants in 2023’s program,” she said. “That aligns pretty close to where we were at for our hiring target for that year, so we aim to work with people who are in their first 12 months of professional nursing practice, and we essentially hit that target with 375.”

Of the 375 participants, 94% reported an intent to stay with Allina over the next 12 to 24 months — substantially higher than the national averages for nurses’ intent to stay, according to Dr. Prunty.

This year, the program is more cohort-based and has doubled in length to 24 hours. There are six cohorts in 2024, with each expected to have an average of about 115 participants.

“The expansion this year focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion and health equity in particular,” Dr. Prunty said. “We’re incorporating a lot of elements around professional development, mentorship, communication, nursing research, evidence-based practice and trauma-informed care.”

Allina will evaluate the program’s sessions and review feedback after 2024 when more than 600 participants will complete the program.

“We want to get another year under our belt so that we really understand where our workforce is at, review our data and then pursue accreditation,” Dr. Prunty said. “We are structuring the program in such a way that we would be able to seamlessly apply for accreditation through the American Nurse Credentialing Center.”

The residency program is one key way that Allina hopes to improve its recruitment and retention of nurses — particularly those in their first year of practice.

“From January 2023 to January 2024, we had a 64% improvement in retention of first year nurses,” Dr. Prunty said. “We want people to feel a sense of community, maintain employment and grow with Allina because that’s how we know the patients and communities we serve are going to get the best care from Allina nurses.”

The pandemic has forced health systems to rethink their nursing strategies as nurses increasingly crave flexibility, accessibility, and a sense of community and autonomy over their work.

“They want to be a respected member of the healthcare team and be recognized for the value that they provide to healthcare organizations,” she said. “Nurses want to feel seen, be heard and be part of an inclusive environment. We’ve partnered with our health equity and DEI teams to make sure that that was a central tenet of our program this year.”

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