Giving Nurses a Head Start


TriState Health implemented their Nurse Residency Program in 2019, and it has grown and evolved over the past five years into the Acute Care Residency Program. Led by TriState Health Clinical Nurse Educators Jessica Matoske, RN, and Shawn Neilson, RN, this program is designed to bridge the gap from student to professional, set students up for success, build confidence, provide support, and give recent graduates a head start into the nursing profession. So far, approximately 25 new nurses have completed the program, with several participants choosing to continue their nursing journey as full-time TriState employees.

“This program was the best thing to have happened to me as a new nurse,” says recent participant Ann Wanjiru, RN, who currently works in the medical/ surgical unit at TriState. “It helped me gain confidence in my role and adapt to the life of a new nurse, which I will carry with me throughout my career,” Ann continues. “Jessica and Shawn are incredible mentors, and I am grateful to have started my nursing career at TriState.”

COVID-19 changed the way people learn, and we have seen an increase in online education, which allows for less hands-on experience. The residency program builds a foundation for new nurses by giving participants practical training and exposure to real life scenarios before they ever provide care to a patient, while teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills.

“This program is a great opportunity,” according to residency participant Cassidy Jenkins, RN, who now works in TriState Emergency. “The transition from nursing school to real-life nursing can be hard, and this program provides you with support, confidence, and knowledge to succeed,” she continues. “It allows you to ease your way in, working alongside a nurse who you can ask questions to, and gives you time to get the flow of things. Then after working for a couple of days on the floor, you have the opportunity to be in a classroom with Jessica and Shawn where you can discuss how things are going and they provide additional information beyond what you are already learning on the floor. They are great listeners and make you feel comfortable asking questions. The relationships you build through this program make a huge difference in your career.”

Students spend five weeks rotating through various departments (emergency, intensive care unit, medical/surgical unit, and short-stay surgical unit), giving them insight and comfortability in the different environments throughout the hospital, with one classroom day each week. Classroom days consist of debriefing and team discussions, one-on-one time with mentors, case studies and scenarios, TriState Health guest speakers, and more. This program is designed to give participants additional resources, confidence, and support as they begin their nursing career, while building relationships with others also established in the healthcare profession.

“These are the nurses who will be taking care of me and my family someday, they are the faces of TriState, and those who take care of our community,” says Jessica. “We want them to love and excel at what they do and any way we can facilitate that is an incredible opportunity,” she continues. “It is so amazing to see the growth both professionally and personally over time, and being part of the process of engaging them, supporting them, and creating learning opportunities in new ways is fun and challenges me to be a better educator,” she concludes.

“We want to see them thrive,” adds Shawn. “It is our hope to give them a safe place, a voice, resiliency, and the tools they need to provide compassionate care to patients for years to come. I love watching these new nurses grow and evolve into the future of this demanding, but fulfilling, profession.”

TriState Health has primarily collaborated with Walla Walla Community College to recruit for their Acute Care Residency Program, but the program is available to all recent licensed graduates. If you or someone you know would be interested in participating in this program opportunity, please apply at