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Cohort #1 after they completed the initial training period last fall. Pictured from left to right: Stephanie, RN, Katherine, RN, Brittany, RN, Amy, RN, and Eric, RN.

One year ago, Independence Plus launched its Home Nursing Residency program, a hands-on training and education nursing program for new grads.

We recently sat down with the program’s first cohort to talk about what they learned and how they are preparing for their upcoming graduation, which marks one year working full-time as a Registered Nurse in Home Nursing.

Q: Tell us about your first day at Independence Plus?

Eric: There was this moment of silence as we sat around waiting for class to begin.

Amy: Eric broke the silence by saying, “So, who else is nervous right now?”

Eric: Or did I say, “excited…?”

Brittany: It broke the ice immediately. We all laughed.

Katherine: I think we were all nervous that first day.

Amy: We are very lucky. We’re a good team.

Q: Does it feel like it’s been one year already?

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Cohort #1 with Deb, RN, BSN, posing with the fire truck at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital for the hospital to home transition education.

Stephanie: It actually does feel like a year. I feel like a regular nurse!

Brittany: I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing lately, especially on all of the education and training we received. We learned so much.

Eric: Yeah, it’s hard to fathom that we didn’t know all of this one year ago. The amount of information we absorbed over the last year is crazy!

Amy: Providing support for the new Residents has made me realize how much we’ve learned.

Q: What was the most valuable part of the education and training?

Stephanie: We were supported. We learned early on that no question is a “dumb” question.

Brittany: People always ask me if I feel supported in this program. I always answer: YES! In month three or four, I started second guessing myself. I talked to Deb, Home Nursing Residency Manager, and she told me to stop it! She said, “You’re doing great out there.” I got the confidence I needed in that moment and never looked back.

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Amy, RN, and Eric, RN, at a Patient Family Advisory Committee (PFAC) meeting to share their experiences with the Residency program.

Katherine: Independence Plus looks out for their nurses—and has all of our best interests at heart. They need you to be prepared, and do everything in their power to get you there.

Brittany: I’m happy we were able to get into a program that focused on education, and didn’t just toss us out into the field.

Q: Apart from patient care, what did you learn?

Amy: Time management was the thing I feared the most. I learned the most when I was finally out on my own and able to put into practice what I had learned.

Brittany: I’m a better communicator now. To be successful, I needed to learn how to communicate to my manager, Clinical Managers, patients and families, and other nurses.

Katherine: I learned a little bit from every patient. They each taught me something different.

Q: What was your best day as a nurse, so far?

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Katherine, RN, with one of our pediatric patients.

Stephanie: Every time I walk up to the door of one of my patient’s homes and they are genuinely glad to see me. I’m happy to say that I’m the kind of nurse who can provide our patients and families with some relief and peace of mind.

Brittany: For me, it was the day one of my patients came home from the hospital. Seeing the joy on her face made me realize that the home is the best place for our patients. In that moment, I knew that I wasn’t just the Wednesday nurse anymore, I was Brittany and they trusted me.

Katherine: I love the energy and the challenge of my pediatric patients. It’s always a whirlwind of a day, but that’s what keeps me coming back.

Q: What about your hardest day?

Stephanie: I learned the most about myself as a nurse from one of my spinal cord injury patients. I learned to overcome my fears and difficulties of the case—and that feels very satisfying. Now, I choose to work with this patient because it’s a challenge and keeps my skills sharp.

Brittany: Experiencing the death of one of my ALS patients. I had witnessed death before, but this was different. It was a sacred moment—and I was someone they trusted to be part of that moment. It was very difficult and bittersweet, but I know now that I was meant to be there.

Q: What’s special about our ventilator-dependent patient population?

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Mike, RN, and JJ take walks to the lake almost every day.

Katherine: Our patients surprised me the most. Going into the program, I expected ICU-level patients who were confined to their beds, but what I experienced is our patients living full lives—going outside, visiting with friends, getting out of the house. They are very complex patients, but they have stability at home.

Amy: Independence Plus and its nurses do a great job empowering our patients. Even though our patients are ventilator-dependent, we are encouraged to help our patients live full, meaningful lives.

Eric: Yeah, it gives people hope. Many people think vents and trachs and immediately think bedbound and unable to leave the house. That’s just not true.

Stephanie: I love the diversity of our patient population, too. I got a little bit of everything—pediatric patients, adult patients, and all different diagnoses, like ALS, Spinal Cord Injuries, Brain Injuries, and Muscular Dystrophy. This helped me figure out what kind of nursing I like, and sometimes it surprised me. I always thought I wanted to work with pediatric patients, but I love working with adults.

Q: What are you going to miss the most?

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A group of our residents at a recent monthly check-in meeting.

Stephanie: Monthly check-in meetings! It’s the one time every month where we get to talk to the other residents.

Amy: Yes, I agree. Check-in meetings made me realize I can always do more.

Eric: They remind me to think, “What else can I be doing for my patients?”

Amy: Right! Always check the 485s! Always check the emergency bag! It’s engrained in us now.

Katherine: I’ll miss having Deb on speed dial, but I also don’t think that much will change.

Q: Do you have any advice for other Residents or New Grads?

Stephanie: Be the kind of nurse you’d want for yourself or someone you love.

Katherine: Don’t treat your patients like they’re patients. Treat them like they’re real people because they are!

Congratulations to our first cohort on their upcoming graduation!

We also want to extend a huge thank you to all of our current Residents in the field. Your everyday work allows each of us to feel meaningful success. It is truly an honor to be walking this path along with you!