University of Iowa College of Nursing will launch an online registered nurse apprenticeship program

University of Iowa College of Nursing will use funding from the Iowa Workforce Development to expand on its online nurse residency program and create a registered nurse apprenticeship program.


Alyson Kuennen

The College of Nursing Building is seen in Iowa City on Monday, February 25, 2019.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

When newly graduated nurses begin working at health-care organizations, they may need extra support transitioning into their careers. 

Through the Iowa Workforce Development, the University of Iowa College of Nursing received $150,000 to begin a registered-nurse apprenticeship.

The nursing school currently has the Iowa Online Nurse Residency Program, which was created in 2014 and partners with health-care organizations across the country to help newly graduated nurses transition into their careers. With the funding from the Iowa Workforce Development, the college will expand the online residency program, adding the apprenticeship program to its repertoire.

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Iowa has 82 critical-access hospitals. These hospitals have 25 beds or fewer, making it more difficult for those kinds of hospitals to have residency programs, said Nicole Weathers, the program manager for the Iowa Online Nurse Residency Program. The goal of the online residency program is to have a standardized, but adaptable, program for smaller hospitals, she said.

The online residency program has 13 online modules that serve as the core curriculum for the program, Weathers said. The UI provides the curricula and support for the hospitals, and the health-care organization that hires the newly graduated nurses provides on-the-job experience and support for the nurses, she said.

“Prior to this … when people have thought about apprenticeship, they’ve really been associated with the unlicensed workforce,” said Anita Stineman, College of Nursing executive associate dean. “So this is really the first licensed profession that’s been identified as an apprenticeship possibility.”

To add in the apprenticeship aspect to the online residency program, the modules will be expanded to include information on health-care finance and ethics and to increase information on technology, Weathers said.

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“We really thought it would be important to work with those new graduate nurses kind of from Day 1,” she said.

Some of the funds will be used to provide scholarships for new health organizations that join the nursing school for the program, Stineman said. Cost can be an issue in both rural and urban hospitals, so providing extra funding will allow those organizations to participate in the program, she said.

It may be a few months before the program gets started, as the college plans to spend time developing the new modules and to hire someone part-time to work on the development, Stineman said. The goal is to have 200 apprentices enrolled in the program by October 2020, she said.

Before the online residency program was created, there were very few programs similar to it in Iowa, said Lori Forneris, the Iowa Action Coalition Nurse Residency Task Force chair. The programs that did exist were at larger organizations because it was easier for them to development the programs, she said.

Having an online apprenticeship program allows new nurses in rural, critical-access hospitals to have programs to help them transition, because rural hospitals may not have programs, Forneris said.

“I think it’s key to that now more than even with the generations that are coming, the millennials and Generation Z, that we really provide them this opportunity so that they stay in the profession of nursing and don’t leave,” she said.