Magazine article American Nurse Today

What Works: Developing Professionalism and Leadership in New Nurses

Magazine article American Nurse Today

What Works: Developing Professionalism and Leadership in New Nurses

Article excerpt

Nursing is a dynamic profession, requiring enhanced professionalism and leadership skills to deal with the increased complexity of the healthcare needs of today and into the future. New nurses are often overwhelmed with transitioning from student roles into the role of professional nurses. They tend to focus on nursing as a job, not a profession.

In 2004, St. David's HealthCare (SDH) developed the Specialty Nurse Accelerated Program (SNAP) Fellowship with emphasis on recruiting and educating nurses in specialty areas. However, SNAP is more than a training program. Based on Benner's Novice to Expert model, the program is an innovative, intensive fellowship that uses proactive training approaches to accelerate the nurses' transition, provide professional mentoring, and support advancement in leadership roles. SNAP increases confidence and critical thinking. It also promotes professionalism by embracing one's own accountability, lifelong learning, and empowerment to lead change. This unique fellowship demonstrates positive results of 98% employment retention in year one.

Here is an overview of the program.


The SNAP 6-month fellowship occurs after a nurse's 10- to 13-week orientation. To participate in the fellowship, nurses apply and are peer interviewed using behavioral questions geared at soliciting top performers and professional characteristics. A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is preferred, but not required. Although associate degree nurses (ADN) are accepted in the program, they are screened with emphasis on the commitment to enroll in a BSN program after completing the SNAP Fellowship.

Program components

The 2010 Institute of Medicines (IOM) report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, provided impetus for advancing nursing as a profession. The report provided eight key recommendations, five of which are integrated into the SNAP Fellowship and endorsed by SDH:

* Implement nurse residency programs.

* Expand opportunities for nurses to lead.

* Ensure nurses engage in life-long learning.

* Prepare and enable nurses to lead change to advance health.

* Increase BSN nurses to 80% by 2020.

By incorporating these professional aspects of nursing into our SNAP Fellowship, we have created ways to encourage nurses to step outside of their comfort zone and push themselves to excel at an early stage in their development. These nurses engage in committees, teach their colleagues, and proactively become involved in interprofessional teams as part of this development.

According to Twibell and her coauthors, key evidence-based elements of residency programs include professional socialization and opportunities for development, visibility of nurse leaders, time spent in an area outside of the home unit, opportunities for development, hands on learning, and mentoring and peer support. The SNAP Fellowship achieves these elements to promote professionalism and leadership development through the activities of organizational membership, specialty rotations, specialty classes, committee participation, nurse leader interaction, teaching opportunities, and evidence-based best practice project. Here is a closer look at each of these.

Organizational membership

The program pays for nurses' 1-year membership to their national specialty professional organization. SNAP participants attend chapter meetings, are introduced to board members, and are encouraged to become actively involved. Once actively engaged, these nurses hold chapter board positions, present educational offerings at meetings, as well as present posters at local and national specialty conferences. The memberships promote lifelong learning and opportunities for continuous professional commitment.

Specialty rotations

The SNAP Fellowship consists of 11 specialty tracks. The curriculum is a hybrid model that includes specialty-specific clinical rotations, classes, simulations and online educational content Monthly clinical rotations promote interprofessional collaboration and increased engagement SNAP fellows select and schedule pertinent rotations with other professionals such as chief nursing officers (CNOs), physicians, directors, respiratory and physical therapists, and nurse practitioners. …

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