Nkechi Nwoye, Nurse Extern, taking vitals of patient with Maryam Castro, Registered Nurse at Riverside Community Hospital

Riverside, CA  - The COVID-19 pandemic shook healthcare to its core and contributed toward a nursing shortage across the nation.  Riverside Community Hospital is investing in nursing by educating, training and providing jobs for new graduate registered nurses, nursing students and current nursing staff.

Riverside Community Hospital is investing in new graduate registered nurses through our Specialty Training Apprenticeship for Registered Nurses, or StaRN program, (pronounced Star-R-N.) The StaRN program is designed to provide graduate nurses with the tools necessary to succeed in today’s hospital environment.  New graduates can dive directly into learning a specialty such as Telemetry, Intensive Care, Emergency or Labor & Delivery through 11-22 weeks of didactic learning, simulation and hands-on experience.  Upon completion of the educational portion of the program, StaRNs have a preceptor through the first year or their nursing career. Many of the new graduates coming to RCH are from West Coast University, Azusa Pacific University, Riverside Community College and California Baptist University; but graduates from nursing schools all over the nation are accepted.

Since the StaRN nurse residency debut in December 2016, Riverside Community Hospital has hired and trained 838 nurses in the program; 253 of them in 2022.  “There is immense value in StaRN,” said Annette Greenwood, Chief Nursing Officer at Riverside Community Hospital. “New graduate nurses are given a unique opportunity to further their education and fill a need for specialty RNs. The program also enables growth within the organization.”

Kelsey Velasco, current Manager of the Ortho Trauma Inpatient Unit at Riverside Community Hospital, was in the first StaRN cohort five years ago. “After I completed the residency, I worked on two units here and did relief charge duties occasionally,” said Kelsey. “Once RCH developed the Clinical Nurse Coordinator (CNC) role, I became a CNC in 2020 and then advanced to Manager in 2021. I love growing in my career at RCH and hope to continue moving up to Director one day.”

A branch to the nurse residency is the StaRN+ program which allows current registered nurses working at Riverside Community Hospital an opportunity to move into surgical services, emergency or neonatal intensive care.  “Not only do we want to provide means of access for new nurse graduates, we also want to create educational and career-advancing opportunities available for our current RNs,” said Annette Greenwood.

Another unique opportunity Riverside Community Hospital has started is the Nurse Extern Program.  As an Extern I, nursing students will join RCH after they complete their first semester of nursing curriculum. Students will have the opportunity to move into an Extern II role when they start their senior year of nursing school. Once they graduate, the Externs will move into one of the StaRN nurse residency cohorts.

The Nurse Externs work directly with RCH registered nurses at the bedside.  The education is all hands-on as they are able to apply what they are learning in nursing school. The program allows the students to work in all inpatient units as well as the Emergency Room. During the end of the program, they will be able to follow patients to their procedures in Endoscopy, Cath Lab, OR, Imaging, Interventional Radiology, etc. Nurse Externs are hired as PRNs (per diem employees) and work a minimum of 4 hours; but can work up to 40 hours if RCH has the need and the student’s schedule allows.

Nkechi Nwoye, Nurse Extern I, has been on the floors four weeks. “I actually came to interview for a non-nursing position here at Riverside Community Hospital and, during the conversation, I mentioned I was in nursing school.  The interviewer told me about this nurse extern program and I applied right away,” said Nkechi.  “This program allows me to apply what I’m learning in nursing school to patient care but also observe real-life situations and how the nurses react to them.”

Nkechi is a nursing student at Riverside Community College and is graduating in December of this year.  Once she completes school, she wants to apply to the StaRN program. “I’ve heard really great things about the nurse residency and would love to start my nursing career in Emergency nursing at Riverside Community Hospital.”

Since the start of the program in June 2022, Riverside Community Hospital has hired 30 Nurse Extern I and 7 Nurse Extern II. This program will continue indefinitely as they graduate and move into the StaRN nurse residency.

Riverside Community Hospital also created RCH University, an application-based educational program that offers Intensive Care and Medical Surgical Transplant Nurses a unique opportunity to advance their clinical knowledge and further specialize cardiovascular, trauma, neurology or transplant. The three-month educational program is a blend of hands-on didactic training and bedside clinical application. Participants are guided through intense, weekly sessions that dive deeper into the pathophysiology, pharmacology, assessments, clinical indications and overall outcomes of patients. Participants acquire the ability to assess, identify, develop and lead to improve clinical knowledge, judgement and treatment for highly acute patient populations.

The inaugural class started in January 2022 with 16 ICU nurses.  They participated in weekly four-hour service line sessions that blended didactic and clinical application using lectures, hands-on simulation lab, online coursework and exclusive patient care training. Nurses were paid for the four-hour sessions but additional time outside of work was required to complete readings and homework assignments. It was expected that participants completed 100% of the program to meet graduation requirements. All 16 nurses participated in a special graduation ceremony in May.

One of the Neuroscience students, Trinity Rector, RN, said, “I applied to RCH University because Neurology is very personal to me and my family as a loved one of ours suffered a spinal cord injury. Every neuro patient and their family should know they will get the best care when they come to Riverside Community Hospital because I, along with my colleagues, really care deeply about helping patients overcome these types of injuries.  RCH University helped me provide better care to my patients.”

“Bringing world-class healthcare close to home requires our nursing staff are second to none and provide excellent care with compassion and confidence,” said Jackie Van Blaricum, Chief Executive Officer, Riverside Community Hospital. “The investment in nursing Riverside Community Hospital is making allows us to continue to care for complex patients with precision and passion in a growing region.”

Large cohort of StaRNs at hospital orientation December 2021

Sixteen RCH University students and service line leaders at graduation ceremony May 27, 2022