The five key elements of a good orientation program

Nurse Leader Insider, December 4, 2006

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Editor's note: This excerpt was adapted from HCPro's new book "Stressed Out About Your First Year of Nursing."

While orientation programs vary widely from facility to facility, the best and most successful programs share similar components. Keep an eye out for the following five elements at your institution.

Element #1: Orientation information is shared

The first day of orientation should make you feel welcomed and well-treated. But before you even accept the position, you should know what your orientation will entail. During your interview, you should have received information or details about the hospital's orientation program and structure.

Element #2: The program is structured and comprehensive

The orientation program should be complete and organized, and have clear objectives for the training that will be taking place. It should be at least one year in length.

The level of responsibility and accountability the new graduate is expected to meet during the orientation period should closely mirror his/her function level.

Element #3: Feedback is provided throughout the program

For you to be successful, you should be evaluated frequently to ensure that your identified learning needs were met. Though the best feedback will probably come through your daily experiences, nurse educators and your preceptor should meet with you on a weekly basis to discuss your progress. Skill checklists and evaluation forms will help you see the strengths you already possess, as well as the competencies you need to develop.

At the end of your orientation, your preceptor should fill out a complete evaluation of your performance. During orientation, nurse managers and supervisors should measure your success and progress toward clinical competence. During the interview process, you should have discussed the process of receiving feedback, as well as how often that feedback will be provided.

Element #4: Support is abundant

New graduates-like all nurses-need support from educators, nurse managers, and staff. Their support plays a vital role in helping you make the transition from student nurse to new graduate, and also helps you deal constructively with the challenges every new nurse faces in his/her first year.

Element #5: Orientees provide program feedback

The orientation program should continually be evaluated by the new graduates, with changes made accordingly. This feedback should include an evaluation of how the formal and unit-based orientation program met your needs, the role and effectiveness of the preceptor, and suggestions for improvement.

The next group of orientees is sure to benefit from your honest and candid answers-you may even see the curriculum or objectives change because of your thoughtful feedback.

Source: For more information on this book or any others in our new Stressed Out series, go to our new, interactive Web site The site is filled with nursing tips, tools, features, and books-sprinkled with a whole lot of fun-that can help guide new and experienced nurses on the path to success.

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