Graduating from nursing school and passing your NCLEX boards is a great accomplishment and one to be very proud of, congratulations! Now you face the next step – applying and interviewing for a nursing job. This can be both exciting and stressful at the same time.
Choosing a job that has a good orientation program, however, can help lessen this stress for you. There are a few different types of orientation programs that a health care facility may offer. Understanding the different types can assist you when interviewing. Many of the terms used to describe orientation programs will vary depending on the health care facility. For instance, the health care facility may use the term preceptor program, mentor program, residency program, or nursing orientation. Most times the health care facility will include many of the same components necessary to orient you to your new role in the health care facility. It will be important for you, however, to find out what does the specific term mean to the institution you are applying to. Below, you will find the common meaning behind these terms in a typical acute care hospital setting.
Most hospital-based nursing orientation programs will include a general orientation in the classroom followed by an orientation on the unit you were hired to work on. The classroom will include education from each department in the hospital, as well as education on the use of the electronic medical record (EMR). The classroom orientation can vary from a few days to a few weeks depending on the health care facility. Once the majority of classroom orientation is complete, you will orient with an assigned preceptor or mentor on the unit you were hired to work on. A preceptor
is a registered nurse, preferably with a BSN degree, who has been working at the institution for at least two years. The unit orientation can vary in length of time depending on the health care institution. You generally will be on orientation following your preceptor/mentor’s schedule for about three to six months. If you were hired to work in a critical care area, your orientation will most likely be longer and even up to one year depending on the facility.
Many facilities are finding it challenging to recruit experienced competent nurses to work in critical care and specialty areas, such as the Emergency Department (ED) and Operating Room (OR). To meet this challenge, many hospitals started residency programs for new nursing graduates. The residency program
generally requires the newly hired nurse to attend the general nursing orientation, as well education classes on specific skills you will need to work in your area. For example, if you are hired to work in the ED or the OR, you will need education and skill competency on ECGs and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), as well as education on other skills needed for working in that specific area. Once the classroom training is completed and skill competency is verified you will orient in that area for a year, possibly longer depending on the facility and your learning needs.
Many new nurses ask what if I do not feel ready to come off orientation? This is a good question; most health care facilities will extend your orientation a month to a few months depending on your learning needs.
No matter what term the facility uses to describe their nursing orientation program there are some general questions you may want to ask when interviewing for the job. The questions include:
- What type of nursing orientation program do you offer?
- What type of education classes will I be taking?
- How long will I be in orientation?
- What support is available to me during and after my orientation?
- Will there be one or many preceptors/mentors assigned to me during my orientation?
- Can you provide a sample of what the orientation schedule may look like?
It is important to remember that the health care facility wants to make your orientation a successful one. A successful orientation program helps ensure your competency caring for patients and improves both nurse recruitment and retention at the facility. You are now ready to begin the interview process, and always keep in mind why you were called to the wonderful world of nursing. Blessings :)
Maureen Kroning RN MSN EdD
Nyack College School of Nursing