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New nurse graduates transition into careers

Laura Greene knew her patient would be fine. But the nurse did not know how to explain that to the patient’s mother, who followed Greene around the hospital floor for hours. “I had apologized, but I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

A recent college graduate and new nurse at Weiss, Greene was adjusting from the academic learning expected of her during college to her role working directly with patients. Her preceptor on the floor saw the situation unfold and stepped in.

Greene watched the preceptor look the patient’s mother in the eye and tell her exactly what was happening. “This woman needed a strong, central figure. Being that was something I wasn’t prepared for,” Greene said.

The experience served as a “transitioning moment” for Greene, something that each of the eight nurses in Weiss’ new nurses program shared during their graduation from the program earlier this month.

The program, called “Nurturing the New Graduate,” began at Weiss in 2007. Out of the first class of 10 new graduates, five remain at Weiss—a strong retention rate for beginning nurses. The program lasts 12 weeks, and partners the new nurses with preceptors on the floors for four out of five days every week. On the fifth day, the new nurses gather as a class to discuss their experiences, ask questions and learn from each other and from guest lecturers.

“In the past growing up, I learned from my mistakes. I know I can’t do that here, so if I have a question, I’ve asked it. I have learned a ton from this program,” said Ian Quinn, a nurse from Madison, Wis., who works on the hospital’s eighth floor.

The program’s organizers schedule lectures with physicians, therapists and other nurses to teach the new graduates “what patients are actually going through,” said Cynthia Gonzalez, a nurse educator who helps organize the program. “We try to use all aspects of medicine and nursing.”

This class of new nurses began in March. The program, implemented when five to 10 new nurses start at Weiss, runs about 12 weeks.

“This program was emotional support for me,” said Kristen Kaduk, an eighth floor nurse who recently graduated from the University of Illinois. “It was a place where we could talk about good and bad experiences, set goals.”

Kaduk said her transitioning moment occurred on a particularly stressful day.  She was trying to file a report on the computer, frustrated with the process, when another nurse came over to “annoy” her.

Really the nurse was attempting to make Kaduk smile, but Kaduk was too overwhelmed to focus on anything besides the report at hand. Finally, the other nurse stopped her. “You’re never going to get through this if you can’t laugh in between,” he said.

And for Kaduk, those words put her work into perspective.

On graduation day, the eight graduates and a handful of nursing supervisors and hospital leaders sat in a circle while the new nurses shared their experiences.

“Thank you for choosing Weiss,” said Jim Renneker, chief nursing officer. The nurses’ stories had touched him, and he thanked them for their inspiration. “I highly encourage you to keep telling your stories. It’s so powerful. And I’m so grateful you’re here.”

With their transitioning moments behind them, the new nurses prepared to begin their careers at Weiss, treasuring the new friendships they had formed and the people they had met in the process. “We have so many resources in the hospital. People you can call, so we’re not alone,” Greene said.

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