Skip to main content

IWK invests in the future of emergency nursing

Five nurses stand and crouch around the IWK Health Children's Emergency sign.

IWK Health is midway through the first run of an innovative program to train four newly graduated nurses into the Emergency Department (ED). The program uses simulation, mentorship, shadowing and classroom-based learning to orient new nurses to the busy world of the ED.

In the 2022–23 fiscal year alone, IWK Health received 42,948 visits to the department. It’s an area with high, and unpredictable, patient volumes that require quick thinking and a broad range of skills. IWK has recently implemented the New Nurse Grad Program with the goal to provide extra education and training to assist in bridging knowledge and skill gaps from graduating university to practising in the critical ED environment. By doing so, the pool of people available to work in the ED grows and their skills are developed specifically for the emergency setting.

The program is carried out by a collaboration of individuals and teams from across the ED and the IWK. For the team to meet its goal, it meant building a program that focused on the development of patient assessments, increased confidence in decision-making and clinical skills, and development of time management, organization, and prioritization skills in our new graduate nurses. The new graduates will go through over 150 hours of classroom time, 200 hours of shadow shifts and then 16 weeks of precepted shifts as part of the program.

“We’ve tried to create a program where nurses could embark on their career, take risks and ask questions, while always feeling supported by the amazing ED team,” says Tanya Murray, manager, Emergency Department, Trauma Program and Atlantic Canada Poison Centre. “Our newly graduated nurses are the future of nursing. I’m so proud of the new graduates and the growth they’ve shown already in the past three months.”

For the four program participants, the learning has been invaluable and their introduction to the IWK has been welcoming and supportive.

“I feel very grateful to have been given this opportunity and I feel it has had positive impacts on my own wellbeing and the care that I provide to my patients every day,” says Jessica Ambrose, registered nurse and program participant. “This program has allowed us to make connections with various professionals in our department and get comfortable with the entire team. Everyone has been so welcoming and kind from day one.”

"The IWK Emergency Department is a great place to work and learn because we have a very supportive interprofessional team," says Taylor Tingley, registered nurse and program participant. "Personally, I love the IWK ED because every day I get to help patients feel better and support their family members!"

"Academic training in university is very broad and policies differ from facility to facility. When you begin your career, there may be instances where you follow a different protocol or policy than what was practiced at your academic institution," says Lauren Stienburg, registered nurse and program participant. "This program has allowed us to learn all of the IWK Emergency Department policies and protocols in a controlled, supportive environment. I'm very grateful for this program and the people who created it."

The IWK joins other hospitals across the country that are looking at innovative ways to support clinical teams and ultimately improve the patient experience. The new grad program is just one example of what IWK Health is doing to transform health care.

“This program is an investment in our future. We really want to support career satisfaction, long-term retention, and enhanced competence and confidence in nursing,” says Murray. “Any patient and family visiting the ED today should see a dedicated, collaborative and hardworking team of professionals providing the highest standard of care to their children, despite all the challenges faced in our system today.”