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VA Program Fosters and Provides Opportunities for New Registered Nurses

After taking the NCLEX in June, UW-Milwaukee College of Nursing Parkside campus graduates, Ashley Tronson and Joy Trapp started their journey in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Registered Nurse Residency Program at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center.

The Zablocki VA Medical Center Nurse Residency Program Manager, Sherry Becker says, “this residency program provides 100% protected time and ensures a supervised transition to autonomous and competent clinical practice. Clinical settings provide a range of experiences in the application of nursing science and practice, provide exposure to Veterans of varying backgrounds and cultures, and foster graduated responsibility in carrying out professional functions. Veteran-centric continuity of care is stressed in transitions of care from inpatient to outpatient settings, acute and long-term care, spinal cord injury/illness, and mental health programs. As a resident, the RN is an integral part of interdisciplinary teams and can enhance clinical and leadership skills in a variety of clinical settings. As a successful graduate of the program, nurses are well positioned to initiate his or her professional nursing career.”

Trapp found out about the program from an email that was forwarded from her nursing advisor her senior year. She became interested in applying since she felt like it was an incredible opportunity that would help transition her from being a student nurse to a practicing registered nurse. After submitting a resume, cover letter, three letters of recommendation and her transcripts, she received a half hour long virtual interview. She was accepted into the program, and after passing the NCLEX, started her role as a Nurse Resident. After being there for a few months, she says she feels much more comfortable going to work knowing that she has so many resources and other nurses readily available to answer her questions.

Prior to starting, the accepted residents are asked to choose three departments they are most interested in working in. Trapp received one of her choices, which is in the emergency department (ED). She shared, “in the ED, I have had the opportunity to see many different medical conditions and practice many of my nursing skills. “

Tronson, a veteran herself, was also excited about having a preceptor for her first year as a registered nurse. Because much of her clinical experiences were during CoVid-19, she wanted a job that really would foster her transition. “The support that not only my preceptor, but management has shown has really helped me feel confident in my nursing practice.”

Tronson’s long term career goal is to work in psychiatric- mental health nursing. She was offered a position in the acute in-patient psychiatric-mental health unit. A normal day for her entails care for three to four patients who are medically stable and just need help with psychiatric concerns or drug/alcohol detoxing. Tronson said, “A lot of the nursing care I do is using therapeutic communications. It is really rewarding to be able to see the mental changes that happen when patients are getting the care they need.”

One thing both recent alumni emphasized was how much they appreciate the opportunity to float and shadow in other departments, including specialty areas such as the spinal cord injury unit and plastic surgery. Ashley said this was part of the reason this program was so appealing to her, sharing, “I get to experience all areas of nursing and that either cements my chosen specialty or makes me want to change it down the line.” Trapp said that being able to send time in many different departments is one reason why she is so happy with the program. “These experiences allow me to determine which areas of nursing I enjoy and which areas I am not as interested in. Overall, I am absolutely loving the VAMC Residency Program and would highly recommend for all new nurses to look into it!”