Brandon (Fla.) Regional Hospital has a new nurse recruitment strategy: It’s hiring registered nurses fresh out of nursing school and enrolling them in weeks- or months-long residency programs to learn the technical skills needed to care for patients in critical care and other specialty areas. While still evolving, the number of nurse residency programs has been growing steadily after being endorsed by the Institute of Medicine in its 2010 report, “The Future of Nursing.”

“With this residency program, we’ve been able to kind of grow our own nurses,” says Christine Taramasco, R.N., chief nursing officer, Brandon Regional. “We are helping new graduate nurses achieve their professional goals while securing a future for their families.” Brandon Regional also benefits. Because of a reduced reliance on agency nurses, contract labor costs declined 47 percent in one year, saving more than $1 million.

Baby boom RNs are retiring and new RNs have more job options today, says Barbara Jacobs, R.N., CNO, Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md. “Now, hospitals have to compete for nurses with outpatient centers that can offer a Monday through Friday schedule with no call, weekends or holidays,” Jacobs says.

Brandon Regional’s program is offered using an approach called StaRN that was supplied by a unit of its HCA parent, Parallon. Brandon asks the nurses to commit to two years of employment; during the 16-week residency, they are on Parallon’s payroll. The hospital then pays Parallon a placement fee for each nurse who successfully completes the program. One-year retention is at 90 percent among the first 57 RNs in the program, according to Brandon officials. The program has also significantly cut time-to-fill rates.

Anne Arundel also offers a 12-month residency program to new RNs, with support from the statewide Maryland Nurse Collaborative. The Maryland program is based on a standardized residency approach developed by the University HealthSystem Consortium and American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which has a 95 percent retention rate of first-year nurses, according to the UHS consortium.