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News / Health / Clark County Health

PeaceHealth nurse residency program helps new nurses build confidence

By Wyatt Stayner, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 23, 2019, 5:59am
5 Photos
Registered nurse Fabian Woepke, a member of the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center nurse residency program, pauses to check on an IV for patient Rick Johnson of Vancouver while working at PeaceHealth in Vancouver. The nurse residency program, which is in its second year at PeaceHealth, gives new nurses comprehensive training and support during their first year at the hospital.
Registered nurse Fabian Woepke, a member of the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center nurse residency program, pauses to check on an IV for patient Rick Johnson of Vancouver while working at PeaceHealth in Vancouver. The nurse residency program, which is in its second year at PeaceHealth, gives new nurses comprehensive training and support during their first year at the hospital. Amanda Cowan/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Before Amy Aldridge left a career in law enforcement and became a nurse, she didn’t quite know how involved nursing was.

Aldridge, 43, said that “when you think of nursing, you think, ‘Here’s your medicine. How do I make you comfortable?’ ”

Now that Aldridge has graduated from Clark College’s nursing school and spent about three months in PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center’s nurse residency program, she has a much more comprehensive view of the quickly growing, in-demand profession.

“What really surprised me about nursing was all the behind-the-scenes stuff that nurses do,” she said. “Patients just see the surface stuff. They don’t see the talking to the doctors and advocating for different things.”

To apply for the program

Applications for PeaceHealth’s fifth nursing cohort are being accepted through Friday. You can apply here: www.PeaceHealth.org/nurse-residency

PeaceHealth’s residency program, which is in its second year, has filtered 38 nurses to the hospital. Another 23 nurses are currently making their way through the program.

PeaceHealth’s program is the result of a partnership with Vizient, a health care performance improvement company that helps shape curriculum and structure the program. PeaceHealth previously provided training for incoming nurses, but the residency is much more comprehensive, said Jennifer More, the nurse residency coordinator.

Residents are trained by more experienced nursing staff and take part in monthly meetings with More to discuss challenges or ideas and hear from a selected speaker on the hospital’s staff. They also get hands-on training, which is vital, even after schooling.

“Nursing’s main job is to advocate for patients to be safe,” More said. “When you go into a hospital system, there are multiple opportunities for breakdowns in communication. The best nurses are the ones that can stay extremely vigilant with safety at the forefront of their minds.”

More said school is more focused on learning to do tasks such as how to administer medication or hook a patient up to an IV. It’s a great place to learn bedside manner, too, but the residency program is where nurses gain confidence and find their voice.

“The biggest challenge is being confident in communication with providers and families,” More said. “You have to learn to advocate for your patient when things don’t make sense or you have a question about something.

She described the process as “the finesse of nursing — about trusting your gut when things don’t feel right and asking questions to explore why that’s happening.”

Clark College nursing school graduate Fabian Woepke, 31, began his residency in August. He’s seen his confidence grow since then, and he even recruited some of his fellow residents to play soccer with him.

He likes how nursing provides different challenges each day. Since August, he’s become more efficient at his morning routine of checking patient charts and of trusting his gut. One time he noticed decreased cognition in a patient during their stay, and told doctors about it. The doctors then discovered the patient was having mini-strokes.

Woepke said it was scary to speak up when he first started, but since the doctors were appreciative of his help, it made him feel like his voice would be heard in the future, regardless of whether he’s right or wrong.

“You have to make your voice heard. It’s just part of the job,” Woepke said. “You have to take care of the patients.”

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Columbian staff writer