Career Pathways & Education

How to Navigate Nurse Residency Programs

The Trusted Team
March 17, 2021
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Your first nursing position sets the tone for your career — So, how do you navigate this overwhelming process? Join Ashley Haugstatter (aka The Nurse Mentor) in a recap of a recent Trusted event, where she broke down what a nurse residency is and why it might be the right fit for you. She also discussed where to find these opportunities and how to market yourself as a standout candidate. 

During the event, she covered:

  • What Is a Nurse Residency Program?
  • Where Can I Find Nurse Residency Programs?
  • Finding the Right Fit for You
  • Become a Standout Applicant

Watch the full recording below, or keep reading for a recap!

What Is a Nurse Residency Program?

A nurse residency program is a formal clinical program tailored to new nursing graduates to provide support and structure as they transition into their first nursing role. 

They typically include:

  • Classroom and hands-on learning in a safe environment
  • Clinical and professional development content

There are also a few different types of programs:

  • Accredited (AACN/Vizient, ANCC/PTAP)
  • Custom-built
  • Specialty-specific
  • Location dependent (there are lots of options!)

Before we continue... Are you a current nursing student or new nursing grad? We designed an 8-step program that pairs with Trusted for New Grads, where you can get access to a nursing resume builder, nurse salary insights, and RN-approved nursing guides to help get your nursing career started! Don't forget to bookmark these resources as reference while you make your way into your new career.

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Why Choose a Residency Program?

There are, as you saw above, quite a few reasons to commit to a program, but one of the major reasons is that not every new graduate nursing orientation is created equally, and you want to be in the best position possible to start your nursing career.

What are some of the key takeaways from one of these programs?

  • New graduate turnover is HIGH (and residencies are one way to prevent that)
  • Access to support, mentorship, and networking 
  • Completion of an evidence-based project 
  • Helps build your resume up from the start 
  • Increases your confidence and leads to better patient care

Where Can I Find Nurse Residency Programs?

This step can feel overwhelmed, but there are a few specific steps you can take to find out what your best options are:

Here are some examples:

  • Search for location or specialty-driven hospitals and facilities (check hospital websites)
  • Use LinkedIn (you should definitely create a profile if you don’t have one already)
  • “New Graduate Nurse” search on career websites (Indeed, Monster)
  • Check clinical sites
  • Use Trusted’s Nurse Residency Search Tool!

Finding the Right Fit for You

How do you know which program is the best fit for you? Follow these steps.


  • What are my values and needs?
  • What kind of patients do I want to work with?
  • What are my future goals?


  • What kind of experience does this hospital offer?
  • Do I align with their values and mission?
  • Are there opportunities for growth?


  • Compare reflection and research
  • Get opinions, but stay true to what YOU want
  • Commit to your choice and get to applying! 

Become a Standout Applicant

There are three main things to focus on here, your application, resume, and cover letter.


  • Filled out completely, no missing information
  • On time or early
  • Read the FAQ


  • Achievements vs. Job Duties
  • Transferable skills
  • Strong professional narrative

Cover Letter

  • Personalize
  • Showcase your enthusiasm
  • Highlight your unique experience and skill

And… of course, the interview.

Be Prepared

  • Dress for success
  • Research Mission, Vision, Values, Achievements
  • Reflect and practice!

Bring Your Best

  • Illustrate your soft skills
  • Show your enthusiasm
  • Keep the big picture in mind

Finish Strong

  • Ask great questions
  • Thank you notes
  • Be patient, follow up as needed

Networking: Do or Don’t?

Surprise: networking isn’t just for business majors!

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Methods and Etiquette (LinkedIn, direct email, clinical experiences)
  • Informational interviews and shadowing experiences
  • Perfecting your “elevator pitch” 

And always remember: Take every opportunity for professional development, build a network of support and contacts for the future, seek feedback, and ask questions & set goals.

Use Trusted to Find a Nurse Residency Program

Create a free Trusted profile to access simple and sleek tools to build your resume, explore nurse salaries, and find the best residency programs for you!

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