VT’s first with Nursing Practice Transition Accreditation
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: NEWS, 2021

VT’s first with Nursing Practice Transition Accreditation

Program earns “accreditation with distinction,” the highest recognition awarded, for its program to welcome recent registered nurse graduates to the profession.

BENNINGTON, VT—November 15, 2021—The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) has granted a 4-year accreditation to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC), for its Practice Transition Program. It is the first program in the state and one of only 208 in the United States to have received the accreditation.

“This new distinction validates that SVMC is a wonderful place to start your career in nursing,” said Pamela Duchene, PhD, APRN, the chief nursing officer and vice president for Patient Care Services at SVMC.  “It shows that we are following evidence-based practice to support our new nurses. That improves recruitment and retention in ways that make a big impact on maintaining the very high quality of care we provide.”  

Receiving the accreditation required a years-long expansion of the program to welcome new graduate nurses. In the past, SVMC welcomed new nurse graduates with an internship, which included 1 – 2 weeks of intensive classroom time and an orientation on the unit. Alongside a nurse trainer, known in health care as a preceptor, they demonstrated competence in their specialty with a standardized validation tool before being released to work with patients independently. Managers and educators checked to ensure that they were on track and that they had all the support that they needed.  

“We approached this accreditation, because we were interested in doing more to welcome new nurses in a way that would contribute both to the excellent quality of care SVMC is known for and long and rewarding careers for our nurses,” said  Program Director Alison Camarda, MSN, RN.

In February 2018, SVMC hired more new nurses in the Emergency Department than usual. It was a perfect opportunity to try a new transition-to-practice program. Instead of a solid block of classroom time, this group had just three days of classroom time before beginning one on one work with their preceptors. They met once or twice a month for a curriculum and discussion. The combination allowed them to identify potential challenges and bring them to the group sessions, which facilitated shared learning among participants.

“We knew it was really good right from the start. The new nurses seemed to learn their jobs more quickly and were more satisfied with their work,” Camarda said. “In fact, all of the participants are still employed in the department today.”

They replicated the program for summer cohorts in 2018 and 2019, and by 2020, they were ready to launch the first nursing residency for new graduates throughout the hospital. It’s called the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Transition to Practice Program. Participants received a week of classroom instruction and met for a day once a month for six months. The program has since been extended to 12 months, which allows new graduate nurses to join the program at any time.

The year-long program connects RNs with nurse educators, leaders, and skilled preceptors for mentorship. It incorporates clinical skills assessments and hones the interpersonal and organizational skills needed to coordinate care with a team of health care providers on the job. Topics for group sessions include communication, leadership, inter-professional teamwork, evidence-based practice, and ethics. Skill sessions provided new graduate nurses opportunities to gain confidence in the hands-on aspects of their work.

To earn the accreditation, a transition-to-practice program must show how it is meeting the ideal program criteria. There are more than 30 standards that the program must meet. For instance, the ANCC asks applicants to, “describe and demonstrate how residents are assimilated into the organization.” SVMC had to provide an in-depth answer and an example of the process in action. The application document featured 117 pages of descriptions and examples. In addition, a three-person team from ANCC conducted a virtual site visit to validate the document.

SVMC submitted additional materials, which demonstrated achievement of five additional standards, in order to receive the accreditation “with distinction.” Beyond that, the ANCC appraisers commented on the extraordinary commitment from every level of the team, including the organizational leadership, nursing leadership, program faculty, and preceptors.

The June 2020 cohort included 13 participants or “residents” and 14 preceptors. Nurses from the Emergency Department, the Medical/Surgical units, and Women’s and Children’s Services participated in the inaugural year. Because they were the only units who had graduates during the accreditation period, they are the only ones that are officially accredited. New graduate nurses from all hospital units have the same benefits, and their departments will be added to the hospital’s accreditation as graduates complete the program.

As in the past, each nurses’ skills are validated before they begin regular patient interaction.

Katherine Doucette, BSN, RN, in the Emergency Department was in the first group to complete the nurse residency program. She said, “The support that we got, the number of educational opportunities, and the organization of the program made the transition to practice a lot less stressful.”

Brittany Priggen, BSN, RN, was also in the first group and went on to become a preceptor for the current group. “There’s just so much minutiae in nursing, and it’s all important,” she said. “The program helped me learn the skills and gain knowledge, but it also helped me build my confidence in nursing. I learned how to access my resources, manage my time, prioritize, and sharpen my assessment skills.”

The program also ensures nurses have the emotional support they need, Priggen explains. “It teaches you that you can ask for help. That it is OK.” She especially valued the connections she made with her director, preceptor, and mentor throughout the program. “You can tell that your success as a nurse is important to them.”

Maintaining the accreditation requires reporting annually. The accreditation by the ANCC is valid for four years. As a part of the accreditation, the program is also noted as an Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program by the U.S.  Department of Labor.

“The accreditation sends a message to nurses everywhere that if you come to SVMC to start your career, you will be met with evidence-based approaches designed specifically to support you in your transition to clinical practice,” said Duchene.

About ANCC:
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association. ANCC's internationally renowned credentialing programs certify and recognize individual nurses in specialty practice areas. ANCC recognizes healthcare organizations that promote nursing excellence and quality patient outcomes while providing safe, positive work environments. In addition, ANCC accredits healthcare organizations that provide and approve continuing nursing education, accredits transition-to-practice programs, and prepares nurses for new practice roles. For more information about ANCC, visit nursingworld.org/ancc.

About SVHC:
Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) is a comprehensive, preeminent, health care system providing exceptional, convenient, and affordable care to the communities of Bennington and Windham Counties of Vermont, eastern Rensselaer and Washington Counties of New York, and northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts. SVHC includes Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, and the SVHC Foundation. SVMC includes 25 primary and specialty care practices.

Southwestern Vermont Health Care is among the most lauded small rural health systems in the nation. It is the recipient of the American Hospital Association’s 2020 Rural Hospital Leadership Award. SVMC ranked fourth nationwide for the value of care it provides by the Lown Institute Hospital Index and is a five-time recipient of the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence. It has also received the highest marks possible from the Leapfrog Group. 

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center provides exceptional care without discriminating on the basis of an individual’s age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, language, physical or mental disability, socioeconomic status, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. Language assistance services, free of charge, are available at 1-800-367-9559.


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