BACKGROUND - Concern regarding newly licensed registered nurses' abilities to cope with the increasing complexity of care has led to the development of a variety of nurse residency program (NRP) initiatives. The unknowns are the extent to which and how various program elements are implemented across NRPs. Without understanding the extent to which NRPs deliver the same program, determination of their impact on care is limited. The purpose of this study was to describe U.S. NRPs and thereby identify the extent of treatment fidelity across programs.
METHODS - Program attributes were measured using a 24-item survey based on the outcomes production conceptual framework. The survey was sent to known NRP directors or chief nursing officers at the 1,011 U.S. hospitals having 250 or more inpatient beds; 203 surveys (a 20% response rate) were returned.
RESULTS - Almost half (48%) of hospitals reported operating an NRP. NRP models included University HealthSystems Consortium (22%), facility based (54%), and "other" (24%). Significant (p < .01) differences were noted among and within program model types in terms of career planning, project requirements and types, and mentoring.
CONCLUSIONS - The extent of differences within and across program types indicates a lack of treatment fidelity needed to detect objectively the impact of the NRP as a discrete intervention on patient outcomes. NRP expansion may be limited by the number of hospitals of a size most likely able to support such programs.
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