Nurse Residencies With the Most Opportunities for New Grads

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Updated February 3, 2023

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Nurse residencies are competitive, but they offer great job experience for new grad nurses. Check out our list of nurse residences that give you the most opportunity.
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According to a study from the Journal of Nursing, 30% of new graduates leave nursing within the first year and 57% leave by the end of the second year. This is an important retention and turnover indicator for healthcare facilities.

However, nurse residency programs can reduce turnover and increase the facility's return on investment. Nurse residency programs help new graduates transition from an academic environment to clinical practice.

We used a data-driven methodology to rank the best accredited nurse residency programs, making it easier for new grad nurses to find the nurse residency that works for them. Our methodology is based on metrics that two NurseJournal nurse contributors, Joelle Jean, RN, FNP-BC and Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, confirmed were important for new graduate nurses to consider when looking for their job. These metrics include degree required, maximum experience, number of units, number of locations, number of cohorts, and automatic experience.

Learn how a residency program can improve your transition, increase your job satisfaction, and improve your clinical judgment and competencies, or go straight to our roundups of the best nurse residency programs.

How Do Nurse Residency Programs Work?

Nurse residency programs use an evidence-based curriculum to incorporate education for new graduates in three key areas:

  • Professional development
  • Patient outcomes
  • Nursing leadership

Typically, nurse residency programs can last from 6-12 months, giving nurses an opportunity to learn how to serve patients and families more effectively in line with the institution's policies, procedures, and technology.

Hospitals that have nurse residency programs for new graduates typically advertise this on their website since it is a distinct advantage they have over other healthcare institutions. A residency program also helps ensure that new nurses have a support system within the organization and built-in nurse mentors.

The most common goals for completing a nurse residency program include helping to identify and address gaps in a new graduate's clinical knowledge, improving their clinical decision-making skills, and fostering continued professional growth and development.

Discover more about nurse residency programs, including common components, such as:

  • Weekly or monthly classroom learning that is linked to bedside training with a preceptor
  • A patient-layered orientation where the resident shares a patient load with their preceptor and gradually increases the number of patients
  • Clinical nursing simulations to solidify assessment and judgment skills
  • Education or core skills like time management, conflict resolution, ethical decision-making, and standards of practice
  • Transitional training moving new graduates to clinical practice

Why Is Nurse Residency Accreditation Important?

According to the American Academy of Nurses (AAN) policy statement, nurse residency programs should be accredited to "assure adherence to education, clinical standards, and accurate evaluation metrics."

Currently, accreditation is not mandatory for residency programs. But it helps ensure the program meets predetermined standards, structure, and outcome criteria. Each of the programs listed in our rankings is accredited.

Accredited programs:

  • Last between 6-12 months
  • Show a 95% retention rate after one year
  • Cover information about leadership, the professional role, and patient outcomes
  • Follow standardized curriculum, structure, and goals laid out by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and Vizient
  • Ensure the program supports new graduates through a successful transition from beginner nurses to advanced nurses

Featured Online RN-to-BSN in Nursing Programs

What to Look For in a Nurse Residency Program

The following factors are key metrics nurses should consider when deciding the best nurse residency program to meet their needs. These factors contribute to the overall ranking of the best programs available for new nursing graduates.

Degree Required

New grads should check the degree required for admission to the nurse residency program. While they are for registered nurses (RNs), some accept only new graduates with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Others may accept an associate degree in nursing (ADN).


Maximum Experience

Nurse residency programs, unlike nurse fellowships, only allow new grad nurses with less than a year of experience.


Accreditation

All nurse residency programs ranked here are accredited by AACN and Vizient. While accreditation is not mandatory, it assures the new nursing graduate the program meets strict standards and outcome measurements.


Automatic Entry

Nurse residency programs may require an application or automatically admit all new nursing graduates. Automatic entry benefits new graduates as it exposes them to an educational curriculum that stresses critical thinking, transition to clinical practice, and evidence-based practice. All programs ranked here offer automatic entry.


Number of Cohorts

The number of cohorts offered by the facility and the start dates tell new grads how soon they can be admitted to the residency program.


Specializations

Nurse residency programs will not guarantee placement in a specific department. Most nurse residencies ask for your top three nursing specialties as part of your application, but you should check to see if your top choices for specialties are offered. The specialties offered by nurse residency programs vary based on open positions and experienced nurses in each department.

The Nurse Residency Programs With the Most Opportunities

Top 7 Programs for Nursing Students With No Paid Experience

1. Penn State Health

New nurse graduates can apply to any nurse graduate residency position, and they will be enrolled in the Penn State Health nurse residency program. Penn State Health offers its nurse residency at four locations across Pennsylvania.

The nurse residency includes 12 monthly seminars with networking opportunities, an evidence-based practice project, and a professional development plan. Nurses must complete all components.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: No paid nursing experience
  • Locations: Four
  • Units: 12
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

2. BJC Health

Based in St. Loui, Missouri, BJC Health has 10 locations that hire new nurse graduates and accept them into the nurse residency program. BJC Health prefers that their nurses are BSN-prepared and offers nurses a BSN differential. Nursing students can apply at any point in their last year of nursing school to any open nurse graduate position to be accepted into their program.

  • Minimum Degree: BSN (preferred)
  • Experience: No paid nursing experience
  • Locations: 10
  • Units: 11
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

3. Jefferson Health

Jefferson Health owns 10 locations across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They prefer to hire BSN-prepared nurses. They require all newly hired nurses to complete the nurse residency, which focuses on patient safety, leadership, communication, critical thinking, evidence-based practice, and professional development.

  • Minimum Degree: BSN (preferred)
  • Experience: No paid nursing experience
  • Locations: 10
  • Units: New grad nurses can apply for any nursing position and if they accept an offer, they must complete the nurse residency program.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

4. Luminus Health

Luminus Health offers its nurse residency program at two locations in Maryland. Nurse residents attend monthly seminars that focus on critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and applying evidence-based practice to improve patient outcomes.

New nurses can apply to any nursing graduate position, and they will be automatically enrolled in the nurse residency.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: No paid nursing experience
  • Locations: Two
  • Units: New nurses can apply to any nursing graduate job opportunity on their site, and if they accept a job offer, they will automatically be enrolled in the nurse residency program.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

5. North Memorial Health Hospital, Robbinsdale

North Memorial Hospital automatically enrolls new grad nurses in their nurse residency program based in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. During nurse residency, new nurses attend monthly seminars, complete an evidence-based project, and perform program surveys and evaluations.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: No paid nursing experience
  • Locations: One
  • Units: New nurses are enrolled in the nurse residency program automatically based on their start date.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

6. Western Missouri Medical Center, Warrensburg

Located in Warrensburg, Missouri, Western Missouri Medical Center places all new nurses with no paid acute care experience in their nurse residency program. Nurses are paid to attend seminars on topics such as leadership, patient safety, and the nurse's professional role. At the end of the program, nurses present an evidence-based practice project and participate in a graduation ceremony.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: No paid nursing experience
  • Locations: One
  • Units: Newly licensed nurses and nurses who do not have acute care experience are required to participate in the nurse residency program.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

7. Tower Health

Tower Health owns three locations in Pennsylvania that automatically enter newly licensed nurses into their nurse residency program. The nurse residency focuses on quality, leadership, and the nurse's professional role. Nurses attend monthly seminars, complete an evidence-based practice project, and fill out program evaluations and surveys.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: No paid nursing experience
  • Locations: Three
  • Units: Newly licensed nurses who apply for the nurse residency program are considered for all available units in the location they apply for.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

Top 7 Programs for Licensed Nurses With Less Than One Year of Paid Experience

1. Sentara Healthcare

Based in Norfolk, Virginia, Sentara Healthcare has 12 locations in North Carolina and Virginia. They automatically enroll new nurses with less than 12 months of experience in their 12-month nurse residency.

In addition to their regular shifts, nurses are paid to attend four-hour long monthly seminars, which focus on leadership, patient outcomes, and the nurse's professional role.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: Less than one year of nursing experience
  • Locations: 12
  • Units: Nurses apply once and can be matched to any unit they would like to work with.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

2. University of Maryland Medical System

The University of Maryland Medical System owns nine participating locations across Maryland. These locations require all new nurses with less than a year of experience to complete their nurse residency program before they are promoted to clinical nurse II and, eventually, clinical leadership roles.

Their nurse residency includes monthly cohort sessions and 1:1 unit orientation.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: Less than one year of acute care experience
  • Locations: Nine
  • Units: Nurses can apply for any open positions they qualify for.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

3. Sanford Health

Headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Sanford Health owns six locations across South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota that all require new nurses with less than 12 months of experience to complete the nurse residency. New nurse graduates at Sanford Health are paid to attend 12 monthly seminars which cover topics like evidence-based practice, clinical reflection, and self-care.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: Less than 12 months of nursing experience
  • Locations: Six
  • Units: 22
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

4. Willis-Knighton Health System

The Willis-Knighton Health System owns four participating locations across Louisiana. These locations automatically enrolled nurses with less than a year of experience into the nurse residency program. The program supports new nurses with preceptor and mentor relationships, focusing on leadership, professionalism, and patient outcomes.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: Less than one year of nursing experience
  • Locations: Four
  • Units: New grad nurses who accept a position at Willis-Knighton Health System are automatically enrolled in their nurse residency program.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

5. Saint Joseph Health System

A Catholic faith-based organization, Saint Joseph Health System has five locations across Indiana. The 10-month residency supports nurses in their professional development and creates a work environment that promotes good patient outcomes. It also focuses on professional networking, nurse leadership, practice-based learning, and clinical reasoning. Nurses complete an evidence-based project as part of their nurse residency.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: Less than one year of acute care experience
  • Locations: Five
  • Units: Newly licensed nurses hired into any position with the organization are automatically enrolled.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

6. Yale New Haven Health

Yale New Haven Health owns five locations in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Their nurse residency program is available to nurses with less than one year of acute care experience working full or part time at one of the five participating locations.

Nurses enrolled in their residency programs participate in monthly sessions to develop their clinical and leadership skills.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: Less than one year of acute care experience
  • Locations: Five
  • Units: Seven
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

7. Tampa General Hospital

Located in Tampa, Florida, Tampa General Hospital requires all new nurses with less than one year of acute experience to complete the nurse residency. The residency program includes small group sessions with other members of the cohort, monthly seminars, and guidance from mentors. These nurse mentors help foster networking and professional development.

  • Minimum Degree: ADN
  • Experience: Less than one year of acute care experience
  • Locations: One
  • Units: All new nurse graduates who accept a clinical nurse position are automatically enrolled in the nurse residency program.
  • Automatic Entry: Yes

Nurse Residency Program Opportunities by State

States With the Most Nurse Residency Opportunities

Nurses who have the opportunity to move may consider states with hospitals that have the most nurse residency programs. This raises the potential for better job satisfaction, competitive salaries, and more career advancement opportunities.

The following five states have the highest number of possible nurse residency choices, according to the AACN and Vizient:

  1. 1

    New York

  2. 2

    Pennsylvania

  3. 3

    Texas

  4. 4

    Maryland

  5. 5

    Virginia

Additionally, these states offer jobs for new grad nurses within large hospital systems, in metropolitan areas, and caring for a diverse population. These advantages help improve nurses' clinical skills and critical thinking abilities.

Large cities and hospital systems also offer nurses more opportunities for promotion or access to advanced education.

Applying to Nurse Residency Programs

You likely will be required to apply for the nurse residency program for your job as a new grad nurse. Most popular programs go quickly, so hospitals recommend you apply around six months in advance.

You will likely be interviewed around 2-3 months before the program start date. Your application will generally require a current resume, valid cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, an unofficial transcript with your cumulative GPA, and a clinical narrative.

The clinical narrative is a written statement of your nursing practice that articulates your clinical skills. These are often written as a story of your care of one patient. Some programs limit eligibility to nurses with less than six months of experience on the job.

Other requirements include passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and being 18 years or older.

  • Admission Materials

    The application process requires the submission of materials that the human resources department may not have. These include a current CPR certification, clinical narrative, unofficial transcript with cumulative GPA, and current resume.
  • Degree Requirements

    The degree requirements vary based on the program, but most hospitals prefer BSN graduates. Those that accept ADN and BSN nurses may also have tuition reimbursement assistance for ADN nurses to advance their degrees.
  • Maximum Experience

    Nurse residency programs are for newly licensed nurses with 0-12 months of paid nursing experience. Some nursing programs even allow nursing students to apply up to six months before they graduate.
  • RN License Requirements

    Acceptance into most nurse residency programs is contingent on graduating from an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX. Many provisionally accept students with the understanding the nurse presents their license on the first day.
  • Other Admission Requirements

    Depending on the program, a new graduate may need to submit basic life support certification. Nurse residency programs with specific unit placement may also require certifications for the patient population, such as critical care or cardiovascular nursing.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nurse Residencies

Are nurses required to do a residency?

No, residency programs are not required in jobs for new grad nurses. However, they have become more popular as nurses and hospitals recognize its benefits of improving clinical skills, easing the transition from academic work to a clinical setting, and improving job satisfaction. Job satisfaction can improve the hospital's retention rate.

How does nursing residency work?

More nursing jobs for new grads are incorporating a nurse residency program. These have classroom experiences followed by clinical simulations and check-offs. Then, new graduates transition to clinical work with a preceptor who monitors the graduate's decisions and patient care. The new nurse gradually works with greater autonomy.

How do nurses prepare for residency?

Candidates can prepare for their jobs as new grad nurses by becoming familiar with the residency program at their hospital, getting the necessary tools for their assigned unit, and developing effective stress management strategies.

How long are you considered a new grad nurse?

Most programs consider you a new grad nurse if you have less than 12 months of experience as a nurse. However, some programs do not admit nurses with more than six months of experience. You should understand your eligibility for a residency program before you apply.


Methodology and Limitations

The nurse residencies with the most opportunities for new grads were ranked using 2022 data from the AACN and the websites for each hospital that offers an accredited nurse residency program, accessed October 2022. Over 200 accredited nurse residency programs were scored.

Nurse residency programs with missing data points or without unique web pages about their specific locations and nurse residency programs were excluded from the ranking or counted as a location for their parent hospital.

The top nurse residency programs were decided based on a weighted average of six measures from highest to lowest weight:

  • Automatic entry
  • Maximum experience allowed
  • Degree required
  • Number of cohorts
  • Number of locations
  • Number of units

Automatic-entry programs are defined as programs that automatically enroll eligible nurses in a nurse residency program upon starting employment. If an automatic-entry program did not specify the number of units, it was categorized as "all available units," equal to 11-15 units based on the understanding that new nurses can apply for any open positions for which they meet the requirements.

Automatic-entry programs that did not specify the number of cohorts were assigned three cohorts for spring, fall, and summer because cohorts usually coincide with graduation dates.

The more experience nurses were allowed to have before they were no longer eligible for nurse residency, the higher the nurse residency ranked in the list of nurse residencies that allow up to one year of experience. Programs that hire ADN-prepared nurses were ranked higher than those who required or preferred nurses to have a BSN before applying because they allow more nurses more opportunities to complete nurse residency.

Locations were only counted if the AACN or the hospital specifically listed that location as offering an accredited nurse residency. The number of units were taken from the hospital website. Units were considered separate if their names were separated by commas or bullet points.

The nature of the data from hospital websites being self-reported and frequently changed based on organization need limits the accuracy of this data. New nurse graduates thinking about applying to nurse residency programs should check the hospital website and contact the hospital to confirm all information about the nurse residency.


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Page last reviewed December 17, 2022

NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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