Just because you successfully recruited and hired a stellar nurse, it doesn’t mean you can take a victory lap yet. Before you celebrate, you must ensure your onboarding process is effective, so your new nurse gets properly trained and set up for success and retention.

Here’s a checklist for designing or upgrading your new hire onboarding experience for nursing staff.

Digitize the Paperwork

If we can give patients the option of filling out forms prior to their visits, we can offer new employees the same ability to complete employment forms prior to orientation. This is especially easy if your applicant tracking system has onboarding capabilities. Digitizing your paperwork will help you streamline the entire onboarding process, as well as make it more enjoyable for new hires.

Demonstrate Culture and Mission in Action

“The more transparent the culture, the easier it will be to do well by the patient and coworkers,” says Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN. Use orientation to show new hires your culture, not just tell them about it. For example, if teamwork is a critical aspect, onboard new hires in groups at the unit or division level to start building connections immediately. If patient or resident experience is paramount, explain how it’s measured and how that information is factored into training and performance reviews.

Dig into your organizational mission and provide examples of how it translates into nurses’ work. Videos of nurses and patients sharing the mission in action are especially effective.

Provide Specialty Training

Some organizations, like OhioHealth, for example, employ a fellowship model for nurses entering certain specialties. Orientation focuses on patient experience and quality outcomes in med/surg, surgery, critical care, and ED. This kind of training is especially important for onboarding new healthcare grads. New hires complete a nine-week program of hands-on work within the units, so they can become familiar with their coworkers, practices, and procedures.

Integrate Online Learning Assets

“Leveraging technology provides curated content that allows the learner to empower themselves in different ways,” says Katie Hickey, OhioHealth’s learning manager. “With the right tools and programs, new nurses can explore and dig in deeper to understand their practice.” Provide new hires with an online library of resources including quizzes and assessments, articles, and videos to augment orientation and training sessions. New hires can access this information on their own time or in self-study time on-site. You can even assign self-study to be completed prior to the first day of onboarding.

If you have the budget, create virtual or augmented reality experiences that immerse nurses in everything from finding their way from the parking lot to following a procedure on a virtual patient. Nursing and subspecialty associations may also offer digital and AR/VR resources.

Build in Downtime

Taking a break helps makes our thinking clearer, aids in retention, and boosts motivation. Build in some downtime during the day for new nurses to recharge and process, and to engage in informal interactions with each other and the teams they will join.

Personalize the Experience

“It’s critical to provide an individualized orientation experience,” Hickey notes. “Everyone is different and comes to our organization with a myriad of knowledge and experiences. To understand and honor that helps us to provide an onboarding experience of continued growth and support.” Review new hires’ background and assessment reports to identify areas you want to address, and then build that into tailored learning and development delivered during onboarding and beyond.

Check in with nurses and managers regularly during onboarding to zero in on areas that need additional attention. This allows you to modify the orientation experience to meet the needs of new hires and the units they’re joining.

Use these onboarding best practices to prepare new nurses for a successful career with your organization and improve overall nursing satisfaction.

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About Margot Carmichael Lester

Margot Carmichael Lester is a North Carolina-based business and brand journalist who has covered healthcare and staffing for more than 20 years. She also writes about moviemaking for the International Cinematographers Guild, specializing in action cinema, and co-authored the award-winning teen writing book, Be a Better Writer. She earned her BA in journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is a rabid Tar Heel basketball fan.