After completing her nurse practitioner program, Megan Wilbert wanted additional training that would help take her from the classroom to confidently caring for patients. Wilbert’s feelings are common – and driving interest in residencies as the future of nurse practitioner training.
“Your learning is a lot more accelerated than an MD and you have no residency with the exception of clinicals, which can vary,’ said Wilbert, ARNP at International Community Health Services (ICHS) clinic in Shoreline. “I’m so grateful I did it. It’s a huge transition to suddenly be responsible for patients.”
Wilbert doesn’t just work at ICHS, she was also part of the first cohort of participants in the community health clinic’s ARNP residency program, now in its fifth year. The groundbreaking program, the first to be accredited in the U.S, offers an example of the career- and knowledge-enhancing benefits a residency brings.
ICHS’s ARNP residency program prepares newly licensed and certified nurse practitioners for careers as primary care providers in a community health setting. It remains one of the most innovative and leading programs nationally after being pioneered by ICHS provider DoQuyen Huynh, ARNP, DNP. As part of her doctoral thesis, Huynh wanted to develop a training program for new family practice providers that would teach essential skills for serving patients with complex health needs and addressing systemic inequalities. Huynh was named Washington state American Association of Nurse Practitioner of the Year in 2016 for her work.
“ICHS’s unique population of immigrants and refugees made it the perfect place to develop and evolve this program,” says Huynh, who serves as the program’s director. “Each year, we’ve made changes to the curriculum to meet individual resident needs. We are viewed as a leader and many programs in the region mirror ICHS’s curriculum.”
Kelli Hiraoka, ARNP, said she immediately felt a strong connection. “I recall visiting ICHS on my interview and feeling inspired by the staff and workplace,” she said. “Each day is unpredictable, exciting and stimulating. You might be inserting a nexplanon procedure for contraception, managing an insulin-dependent diabetic, investigating why that six-month old kiddo has a persistent fever, or telling your female patient she’s finally pregnant after six months of trying. Or you could be helping a patient with heart failure who does not take his meds due to financial constraints, or an adolescent struggling with self harm and suicidal ideation.”
Participants credit Huynh’s strong leadership and the program’s high quality as selling points. Ongoing structure and support are built into the curriculum, which offers a ramp up schedule, continual education with weekly didactics and exposure to different clinical specialties. Another highlight is a mandatory community project – each cohort is responsible for developing a population-focused solution to a current health challenge. Past projects led to the creation of ICHS’s Young Adult Center, the first teen health center in Shoreline, and a video storytelling initiative advocating for funding for Medicaid and community health centers.
“I absolutely loved the residency and feel like it has prepared me well for the transition into independent practice. The ability to have dedicated preceptors, with decades of primary care experience was critical in my development as a clinician and has given me a strong footing for working in the challenging world of community health,” said Dan Gundry, ARNP, fourth cohort participant. “The entire team at the ICHS Holly Park Clinic is incredibly warm and welcoming, so I felt at home right away. I’m very thankful for the opportunity and would highly recommend it.”
ICHS also provides tools for building a sustainable career that fuels passion while avoiding burnout. Participants are taught how to manage the necessary but time-consuming behind-the-scenes work of a provider. Wilbert recalls ICHS providers candidly telling residents they needed effective time management and then coaching her cohort on efficiency and clinic flow, and how to develop better charting, diagnostics and lab management skills.
“I see other colleagues who didn’t get a residency and there tends to be a high level of burnout,’ said Maura Carroll, ARNP, DNP, a participant in ICHS’s second cohort. “It gave me a solid skill set and supported my professional goals in community health.”
ICHS’s ARNP program residents are scheduled to work together, which Wilbert credits as another plus. “I loved the cohort I worked with,” she said. “It was awesome to have two other people to bounce ideas off of and support you. Going through the experience side-by-side is extremely helpful.”
Not surprisingly, many of ICHS’s ARNP residency program participants have opted to stay on at ICHS after graduation, a bonus for ICHS when it comes to recruitment.
“ICHS used to have a difficult time recruiting providers, including nurse practitioners. Since the residency, we’ve been able to fill all vacancies,” said Huynh. “We have the added confidence of knowing residents are well prepared to provide holistic care to our diverse and complex patient population.”
“I could not imagine anywhere else I would want to work. I loved the staff, support and mission at ICHS,” said Hiraoka, who now works at ICHS’s Holly Park Clinic. “There is passion and commitment to improve the lives and wellness of all, regardless of sex, background, income level and insurance status.”
As ICHS continues to invest in ensuring a future pipeline of qualified health professionals, Huynh would like to expand the program to include physician assistants, and to offer consultation and support for regional programs from other organization.
Applications for ICHS’s 2019-2020 ARNP residency program are currently being accepted until March 25, 2019. Click here to apply and for more information.