Work experience program: an innovative approach to the education of nursing students

When entering the nursing profession, a new registered nurse graduate faces many challenges including caring for patients with high acuity, nursing shortages, reduced orientation times, and high registered nurse turnover rates. A registered nurse graduate may experience reality shock when confronted with these challenges. There is a need for innovative programs to prepare the nursing students for transitioning from the role of nursing student to registered nurse. In addition, there are many changes in the healthcare delivery system which pose a challenge to hospitals. Forecasts predict that the shortage of registered nurses in the United States will grow between 2009 and 2030. Healthcare facilities need to become creative in their recruitment and retention efforts. This project explores clinical reasoning, role transition, interdisciplinary communication, and staff retention of nursing students who participate in 60 to 120 hours of a work experience program as a student nurse extern during their summer session. The work experience program is an opportunity that benefits both the nursing student and clinical agency. During this experience the nursing student enhances their technical and clinical reasoning skills while working with an experienced registered nurse. The clinical agency has the opportunity to work with potential candidates prior to hiring the registered nurse graduate. The work experience program allows nursing students to apply the clinical reasoning, interpersonal and technical skills they learn in the classroom and in clinical prior to entering the workforce.