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Nursing Orientations: Is It Time for an Efficiency Upgrade?

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By Marcia Faller, Ph.D., RN, chief clinical officer, AMN Healthcare

Nursing orientations take place in all types of facilities across the country, and their purpose is fairly straightforward: to introduce new nurses to the facility, to their particular unit or area and to how things are done. These orientations are meant to help nurses adjust to their new surroundings and get off to a good start in their new role.

But what if the learning model for these introductory sessions is stuck in the 1990s? 

If your orientations haven’t changed much in the last few years, it might be time for an efficiency upgrade. 

Focus on the “need to know”

Traditional nursing orientations can be a challenge to both instructors and learners. These sessions often include a parade of experts presenting (via PowerPoint) on their particular topic. While nurses can appreciate the effort taken by each presenter, the amount of information can be so overwhelming that very little is committed to long-term memory. Additionally, the new staff member often cannot determine what is “need to know” vs. what is “nice to know.”

To meet the needs of all the stakeholders in a clinical orientation, it is critical to distinguish between these two types of information--“necessary” or “nice” to know--and to put the information into a useful context, so it can be drawn upon at a later time.

It’s true that orientation development can be time consuming for the nurse educator (especially at the beginning), but in the end it creates a more positive and meaningful experience for new employees. And their positive experiences can go a long way toward improving your facility’s nurse retention rates.

Consume the elephant one bite at a time

One of the great things about orientation is that it is generally offered in discrete bites.  That means that you can choose to attack one area, transform that section and measure the response. There is no need to change everything at once, or to make all the sections the same.

As an example, you could choose to revise the section that covers the review of hospital policies. To make this topic more interesting and relevant, you might decide to create a few scenarios, divide into teams and ask each group to use the policy to answer the questions in the scenarios. Or use a game or crossword puzzle to reinforce common concepts, with the unique pieces of your organization emphasized.

Measuring retention of information both before and after the change can help provide needed support for other similar changes in orientation.

Make use of e-learning tools and interactive methods

We all know that e-learning is becoming increasingly common, and it currently exists in a variety of forms. It can be as simple as a voice over PowerPoint. However, if you have access to affordable authoring tools, you can also design interactive sessions where your new nurses can click buttons, answer questions and more fully engage with the material. This learning format has been shown to increase learner satisfaction and comprehension. If this type of e-learning is not in your budget, consider some of the free online tools that include flash cards, videos, crossword puzzles, etc.

Healthcare facilities are continuously being challenged to increase their efficiency, in areas ranging from supply usage to patient throughput times and reduction of errors. So why not help your newest employees become more efficient with a streamlined and more effective orientation program?

Take the time to evaluate what’s working in your current program and upgrade where you can. Your efforts can result in increased employee satisfaction and a healthier bottom line; that’s a win–win for all stakeholders involved.

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