This post serves as a commentary on the question posed by a recent docwire article titled "Are Residencies the Future of Nurse Practitioner Training?"
A recent docwire article points out that "there is a small but growing movement to create formal primary care nurse practitioner (NP) residency programs, similar to those for physicians, where the effort is geared to help them transition to practice. Unlike physicians, NPs are currently not required to attend a formal residency program."
The answer should be a resounding “yes.”
Most nurse practitioners complete either a two-year Master’s degree or a three-year Doctorate program. When they are finished graduate school, they are expected to take care of patients in a similar manner that physicians do. By this point in their careers, these physicians have had four years of medical school as well as follow-on residency training, which can range from an additional four to seven years depending on the specialty.
My experience has been as an acute care nurse practitioner but I am sure that primary care nurse practitioners feel the same when they finish school and take their first jobs: we’re scared.
I’ll admit I was fortunate in that my nurse practitioner program was amazing. I ended up having diverse clinical rotations with excellent instructors and clinical leaders who made opportunities for optional educational experiences. They truly prepared me for my future as a clinical professional. But even with all the benefits of having a great education and clinical rotations that left me feeling like I was ready, I was completely overwhelmed when I started my first job.
Unfortunately, I did not have a residency program at my first job. Neither did I have a nurse practitioner mentor, or someone to train me for that matter. I quickly realized that I was going to have to do a lot of studying and reading on my own to become proficient at my new job.
It took me a year to feel comfortable in my job. An entire year of not feeling supported in my role. Every day felt like a struggle to go to work.
Looking back, I wish I had taken a residency program after finishing my graduate degree. I wish all hospitals, healthcare systems, clinics, and doctors’ offices offered some type of guaranteed dedicated training for new nurse practitioners. The transition from training to practice is challenging and demanding.
Patients’ well-being is in our hands and we ought to be practicing medicine to the highest standards. Well-trained practitioners have better patient outcomes, higher job satisfaction and are less likely to leave a job.
With a growing shortage of healthcare providers, the potential benefits of NP residency programs cannot be questioned.