How To Make A Great Nurse Orientation Program

onboarding checklist for nurses

If you have been charged with developing the nursing orientation program for your medical facility, you know it’s a huge undertaking.  This is such a needed and important part of nursing onboarding that many hospitals take 3 days to present the entire program before the nurses can get to work. Fortunately, there are many benefits to a high quality, comprehensive nursing orientation program that can last for years.

Benefits Of An Excellent Orientation Program

An excellent orientation program shows that the organization cares enough about nursing and nurses to take the time to give them what they need to succeed. This in turn leads to nurses feeling valued and invested at work. Getting off on the right foot can help will help retention down the road.

A good orientation should also give nurses confidence. Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking. The time spent in orientation gives nurses the chance to meet some of their colleagues, supervisors, and the resource personnel available to them in departments like HR. People learn a lot about each other from seeing how a person behaves and reacts and a good orientation gives nurses that opportunity.

In better orientations, nurses will leave understanding and buying-in to the mission statement of the facility. Why is this important? The way an organization treats nurses is based on that mission statement. For example, if it says all employees will be treated with the same respect as patients, nurses can expect to feel valued and know that being respected is a part of the hospital’s mission. Ultimately, this too leads to better nurse retention.

After the best orientations, new nurses will smoothly integrate into their role. They will know exactly what to expect the first day they walk onto their unit and the responsibilities of their co-workers. They will know what they can expect from their supervisors and know how to take care of any problems that arise. They will put their focus on patients first, instead of wondering it they are following the correct policy.

Why Do Hospitals Need A Nursing Orientation?

Besides the benefits mentioned above, the most important reason to provide a great orientation is because nurses need consistent and correct information. Without orientation, nurses will receive different, often incorrect information from different people. A great deal of time and money can be lost when nurses are not instructed in the proper policies, procedures, and chains of command of the organization. A good orientation will educate nurses on the expected behaviors and standards they must meet and the consequences of not doing so.

Nursing orientations are also the best time to present and teach the various technologies used in the facility. To start, they need to already have their passwords set up so they can immediately access the information they need. Then, while many organizations may use the same EMR systems, they may be utilized differently at each. In order for patient records to be uniform and have all the required information in the correct place, a review of best practices at an orientation will get everyone on the same page efficiently.

Ultimately, a great nursing orientation program results in more competent nurses, ready to get to work. Nurses will have the all information they need to handle both patient care and administrative tasks and can efficiently assimilate into their position.

Who Should Be Involved In A Nursing Orientation Program?

As a basic start, nursing managers must be involved in orienting nurses. Nurses can pick up valuable information from a talk by direct management. It tells the nurses what the supervisor values, gives clues to the organization’s culture, and presents the most pressing needs of the department.

People higher in the organization such as the Director of Nursing should make an appearance at nurses’ orientation sessions too, even if they only make a pass through at the group luncheon. A simple introduction and informal small talk gives a face to the name.

A representative from Human Resources should be at orientation to speak about how the organization works, and what HR can do for the nurses. Often a substantial amount of time is required to effectively present information on benefits alone. Plus, some nurses may have questions that would be better addressed in person rather than an e-mail.

Similarly, an administrative liaison should speak about the nurses’ other duties: what are nurses expected to do besides patient care? What can they expect from administration and who should they speak to when they need assistance?

It is also helpful to have someone from IT on hand at a good orientation to address any problems new employees may have with accessing and understanding technological systems. They could lead a session on all the required and available programs and be available to help while nurses practice using the systems.

Finally, an experienced, senior nurse who has been with the organization for years can round out the presenters. This person is perfect for a Q&A session at the end of the orientation and can address the day-to-day concerns that are likely on everyone’s minds.

How Can I Use Technology To Make Orientation Better?

 A new wave of clinical education and competency management systems can support your new nurses, educators and reduce time to productivity.  Software like Xapimed can streamline the onboarding process and guide each new nurse through a personalized path and automate competency sign-off by preceptors, educators, and managers.

In Conclusion

Nursing orientation programs can be dull and ineffective, leading to rough starts for new employees. For the best results, administrators should take the time to thoughtfully craft a comprehensive program that addresses the most important aspects of nursing and employment at the facility. There is very seldom a good time to get a lot of nurses all in the same room. Take this rare opportunity to educate everyone and your new recruits can begin a productive, meaningful, and hopefully lasting career at your organization.

Nursing Orientation Checklist

It is vital that the nurses in your hospital have the information they need to hit the ground running after an orientation. Use this checklist to ensure that the most important information is covered.

  • Does each nurse know their job responsibilities and our expectations?
  • Does each nurse know the name of their supervisors and all nurses who work on their unit? Including the names of people in the lab and pharmacy can also be helpful.
  • Do my nurses know how to access and use the intranet system?
  • Do my nurses know how to access and use the EMR system?
  • Does each nurse know their passwords for the systems and do they work?
  • Do the nurses have their appropriate keys (if applicable)? Do their keycards and codes work for entry to all necessary areas?
  • Does every nurse know the location of the supply closet on their floor?
  • Do my nurses know the name of the person to contact in Human Resources if they have questions or issues?
  • Do my nurses know what to do in each emergency? For this, a brief simulation is a very effective teaching method.
  • Does each nurse know where to find the policy handbook?
  • Did my nurses get a good review of patient safety and infection control?
              Don’t forget to include:
  • Brief tour of the facility/frequently visited areas of the facility
  • Mission and beliefs of the organization and more specifically the unit/specialty areas (if appropriate)
  • Most important policies to follow
  • Proper chains of command
  • Introduction to key resource personnel
  • Teambuilding opportunities
  • Correct usage of phone, paging or walkie systems
  • Opportunities to practice these systems as well as time to practice medication storage, EMR, intranet, and other computer systems with assistance available
  • Thorough review of benefits/HR information
  • Review of any tuition or continuing education reimbursement or requirements
  • Parking information
  • Timing of performance reviews
  • Review of dress code
  • Review of available nurse wellness/self-care/mental health programs (if available)



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