Nursing residency programs are short, postgraduate training programs for nurses who are just getting started in their nursing career. Like nurse midwife programs and other specialized graduate programs for nurses, it can prepare new grads for work in one of the nursing specialties or give them an extra bit of clinical training and learning. Getting into a nursing residency program is completely optional, but enrolling in one can have numerous benefits for those who are new to the nursing profession. In this blog, we’ll look at the many nursing residency programs available to new grads, what these programs can do for you, how they work, what the benefits and drawbacks are and how to get into a nursing residency program.

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List of Accredited Nurse Residency Programs What Are Nurse Residency Programs? How are Nurse Residency Programs Structured? How to Get Into Nurse Residency Programs Should You Apply to a Nurse Residency Program? FAQs

List of Accredited Nurse Residency Programs

There are many nursing residency programs across the US, offering a variety of clinical experiences, focuses and entry-to-practice training for nurses. The following programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) as nursing residency programs, nursing entry-to-practice programs and postbaccalaureate nursing residency programs.

Nurse Residency Programs in Canada

Graduate nurses in Canada can also choose to enroll in a new grad nurse residency program. These programs are usually offered at nursing schools in Canada, major hospitals and through programs attached to some of the best nursing schools in Canada. However, new nurses can also find residency programs and opportunities through their provincial and regional healthcare authority, including Alberta Health Services, Nova Scotia Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Here are a few of the available nurse residency programs in Canada:

What Are Nurse Residency Programs?

Nursing residency programs, just like medical residency programs for graduating medical students, are designed to prepare newly graduated nurses for clinical practice. Many nursing residency programs are called “entry-to-practice” or “postbaccalaureate” residency programs because they are designed specifically for RNs who have recently graduated with their nursing degree and are ready to enter the workforce.

Nursing residency programs are meant to improve the patient care provided by new nurses by improving their patient assessment skills, communication skills and clinical judgment and decision-making. Overall, they are meant to decrease nursing error, improve competency and foster a higher level of job satisfaction and resilience for new nurses.

Nurse residents, similar to a resident doctor, will engage in clinical training under the supervision of a program director or senior nursing staff and possibly complete further coursework or in-classroom learning. While nurses complete both in-classroom and clinical training during nursing school, a residency program is an optional, extra step new nurses can take to better prepare themselves for “real-world” nursing.

Why did nursing residency programs start?

Nursing residency programs are a relatively new concept, but they have been growing in popularity in recent years. As a profession, nursing has faced many obstacles and challenges in recent years, both in the US and Canada. So, in response, nursing residency programs seek to offer better training and preparation for new nurses, ultimately leading to a stronger, more resilient and competent nursing workforce.

Recent studies have found that around 17% of new nurses quit within a year of entering the workforce. While that number rises to 30% of nurses within the first 3 years of working. The primary reasons are cited as being overwhelmed by the transition from classroom to clinical practice and higher levels of burnout among nurses. To foster a better working environment for nurses and ensure new grads enjoy a smoother transition, residency programs were presented as the solution.

While medical doctors go through 4 years of medical school and then complete multiple years of residency training, nurses are put into clinical practice much sooner, even though the length of nursing school is similar to how many years medical school is. Many new nurses feel overwhelmed by the first year of nursing practice, with its many challenges and changes. However, new nurses often report that a residency program helps improve their skills and clinical competency, making the transition much easier.

Are There Nurse Fellowship Programs?

The nurse residency programs we’ve listed above are designed specifically for RNs, or Registered Nurses. However, there are nurse residency programs and even nurse fellowship programs for graduates from nurse practitioner programs. Nurse practitioners (NPs) might choose to enroll in a residency to pursue training in one of the nursing specialties or complete a nursing fellowship to dive deeper into a nursing subspecialty. Either way, these programs have a similar intent, but are open only to advanced clinical practitioners in nursing who have at least completed a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), two of the different types of nursing degrees.

The National Nurse Practitioner Residency and Fellowship Consortium has a list of nurse practitioner residency and fellowship programs available here.

How are Nurse Residency Programs Structured?

Nursing residency programs may have both a clinical aspect and a coursework aspect. They are typically 6-12 months long, depending on where the program is located, what opportunities it offers and whether the program is accredited.

Accredited programs tend to be longer, although since many nursing residency programs are newer, not all have been granted accreditation yet and may have shorter curriculums. Nurse residency programs usually start with a week of orientation, so new nurses can be introduced to the working environment they will be in and the healthcare team they will be working with. From there, nurses will start the classroom component and clinical component of the residency program.

Nursing Specialties

A nursing residency program for RNs will usually act as an “entry-to-practice” or transition program for new graduates. However, some residency programs focus on a type of nursing practice. For example, there are critical care and primary care nursing residency programs, or pediatrics nursing residency programs. These can be extremely beneficial for two reasons. For one, they help you adjust from student-nurse to working nurse. Second, they can give you immediate experience in your desired area of nursing if you decide to pursue another degree and become an NP. Since many advanced nursing degrees require some prior experience, a residency nursing program for RNs can therefore help you meet those needed requirements to advance your education.

For NPs, or advanced clinical nursing specialists, a nursing residency program will look a bit different. Since you likely already have clinical experience under your belt, a residency does not need to prepare you to enter the workforce but will provide you further training in your chosen specialty or subspecialty. There are nurse practitioner programs that already have a specialized curriculum, such as nurse-midwife programs or CRNA programs, but for some nursing specialties a residency or fellowship offer more in-depth and hands-on clinical training for graduates with a general MSN or DPN degree.

Here are just a few of the common nursing specialties NPs might pursue through a nursing residency program:

  • Public health
  • Intensive care medicine
  • Surgery
  • Acute care
  • Pediatrics
  • Orthopedics
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation
  • Neuroscience
  • Oncology
  • Emergency medicine
  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine

Be ready for some common nursing school interview questions!

How to Get Into Nurse Residency Programs

Getting into a nursing residency program is more like applying for your first job as a graduate nurse rather than applying for a nursing degree program. However, getting into a nursing residency program can be just as competitive, because of the limited number of spots available and high number of graduate nurses applying.

To get in, you’ll need to complete your nursing degree (a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing) and then fill out an application online. The process will change a bit depending on the nursing residency program, but the requirements are similar for all.

Nurse Residency Program Requirements

The requirements for a nursing residency program can vary as much as the nursing school requirements, but in general there are only a few core requirements to enroll in one. However, when it comes to competition, nurse residency programs can be highly competitive, especially at major hospitals or at programs attached to medical schools. Keep the following application requirements in mind, but always double check with each individual program!

Should You Apply to a Nurse Residency Program?

While applying to a nursing residency program is optional, it can have numerous benefits for graduates fresh from nursing school. On the whole, it seems nurse residency programs are highly valued by new nurses and offer some significant pros. However, there are a couple of drawbacks to enrolling in a nursing residency, depending on your perspective. Let’s explore the pros and cons of a nursing program next.

Pro #1: Better preparation

A nursing residency program creates nurses who are more skilled, deliver better patient care and experience less on-the-job stress and burnout. These programs, overall, do produce better nurses and create better working conditions for nurses. Nursing students who completed a residency on the whole think their program was an asset to them, helping to decrease their anxiety and sense of being overwhelmed their first year of nursing and improving their skills and abilities as nurses.

Pro #2: More support

Nurses in residency programs receive more support over a longer period of time. Many new nurses experience burnout because of the tough working conditions, high-stress and high volume of patients they need to oversee. In a residency program, new nurses are given more support as they make the change from classroom to clinic. For instance, their supervising preceptor is there to ensure they make fewer errors, have someone providing advice on nursing procedures and don’t need to take on more work than they can handle as they move from a novice to a nursing professional.

Pro #3: Paid positions

Nurse residents are paid during their program, as they are essentially undergoing full-time on-the-job training. So, you can start paying off any debt from nursing school while you are completing your residency program, without adding the cost of another degree or course program.

Pro #4: Specialty experience

Many residency programs will be a nurse’s first introduction to their chosen specialty in a clinical setting. This can be beneficial experience as it’s a sort of orientation to how the specialty setting works, what the duties of nurses are in that setting and what procedures and policies you need to be aware of as an RN in that particular specialty.

Con #1: Contracted work

A downside for some is that accepting a nurse residency position means signing a contract. A residency program for nurses is a large upfront cost for most hospitals and clinics, so nurses will need to sign a contract, usually for 6-12 months that they will complete the program and work in that location. This is not an issue for nurses who can commit to 1 year of work at the same location or program, but it does mean you’ll need to consider whether it’s a commitment you’re comfortable with.

Con #2: More time, less pay

Of course, another downside is that resident nurses are usually paid a lower salary, because the on-the-job training they receive is viewed as a benefit to them and part of their “compensation”. Completing a nursing residency also means adding on at least another 6-12 months of “nursing school”, even if you won’t spend the majority of your time in the classroom. However, for most new nurses the pros of on-the-job learning will outweigh the costs here.

What to Look for in a Nurse Residency Program

If you’ve decided to pursue a nursing residency program after nursing school, great! Your options may not be numerous, but it’s still important to choose the program that’s right for you and will provide you with a quality nursing education and training as a new grad. Here are a few things to look out for when choosing a program:

  1. Accreditation – Since many nursing residency programs are newer, not all of them are accredited by the CCNE. However, there are non-accredited programs that still offer quality training, but they might require more research on your part.
  2. Quality Preceptors – First, look at the quality of the preceptors in a residency program. Are you paired with a single preceptor or multiple? How much time will you get with the preceptor and is it consistent? Are the preceptors experienced? A residency program should have consistent teaching for new nurses and a supportive work environment to be successful.
  3. Structure and Practice – Check to see if a residency program offers both clinical and didactic teaching, has defined learning outcomes and uses a curriculum based on evidence-based practice.
  4. Location – The location of a nurse residency program will factor into your decision since it may affect whether you need to relocate, what type of clinical opportunities are offered and what the work setting is like. It can also influence the eligibility criteria for admission in some states.
  5. Specialty – You might choose a program based on what specialty setting you prefer or hope to get training in. This can limit your options in some cases, but it will mean you end up in the setting that matches your goals and interests.


1. What are nurse residency programs?

Nurse residency programs are short, postgraduate training programs for new nurses. A residency program helps newly graduated nurses to make a more seamless transition from the classroom to clinical practice through supervised clinical training and coursework.

2. How many nurse residency programs are there in the US?

There are 40 accredited nursing residency programs in the US, although there are many more which are unaccredited as of yet. In Canada, there are residency nursing programs available through top medical schools, major hospitals and through provincial and national healthcare authorities.

3. How competitive are nurse residency programs?

Nursing residency programs can be highly competitive, especially at major hospitals or medical centers. Because of the limited number of spots and high volume of nursing school graduates, getting into a desirable program can be hard. 

4. Are nurse residency programs mandatory?

No, nursing residency programs are completely optional, and not a requirement to start practicing as an RN.

5. How long are nurse residency programs?

Most nursing residencies are between 6 and 12 months long.

6. Do nurses get paid during residency?

Yes, nurses do get paid during residency, although the average salary is a little lower than more experienced nursing professionals.

7. What are the requirements for nursing residency programs?

To get into a nursing residency program, you need to complete your BSN (or ADN for some programs) and submit an online application. Some programs have additional requirements such as a minimum GPA or basic nursing certifications.

8. What is the most competitive nursing specialty?

Nurse anesthetist is one of the most competitive nursing specialties. It is also the highest-paid nursing specialty and requires significant postgraduate education and training to become.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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