Residency program helps nurses at St. Michael

When Mary Holt Linsao graduated from nursing school at Olympic College, she was glad she had the opportunity to go into the residency program at St. Michael Medical Center.

“As a graduate new to nursing I wanted to get my feet wet before diving in head-first,” she said.

Kira White is the coordinator for the program. She went through it herself, “So it is near and dear to my heart.”

The program, which just had 28 graduates, started in 2009 with Harrison Medical Center. Almost 350 nurses have gone through the program. “How we were training nurses wasn’t working,” White said, adding not all hospitals have such a program, “But they all should. This is a little more beneficial than throwing them out there.”

Linsao said that extra education was like a “security blanket” for her. “It makes it a little less scary going into this new environment” from school to the profession.

White said with the shortage of nurses nationwide, such programs make sense. She said studies show nurses in the program are as good at 18 weeks as others are at 18 months. “It’s huge for their growth.”

Many hospitals just have six weeks of on-the-job training. “Our program really tries to build that solid foundation for nurses,” White said.

Depending on the area of nursing the graduate is going into, the residency can take from 12-24 weeks, on up to eight to 10 months for those going into the operating room. The program includes classroom work, clinical training in the area they’re going into, plus time spent in other departments at the hospital to get a look at the big picture.

The competency-based model begins with residents completing a performance gap analysis, to identify strengths and weaknesses. A personalized learning plan is created.

Linsao has lived in Kitsap County for 20 years and was a medical assistant when she decided to go back to school to become a nurse. “I love patient care. It’s kind of a calling,” she said.

Since she lived in the community she wanted to work at St. Michael. She was excited about the residency program from “word of mouth from friends and professors who spoke highly of the program.”

Similar to college, she also liked that she went through the residency program with a cohort. “You build relationships with other people going through the program at the same time,” she said.

Students are paired with an experienced nurse in the unit they are going into, for Linsao that was the critical care unit. Their mentor guides them to make sure they follow proper procedures.

They also shadow professionals in other departments, such as radiology, pharmacy and physical therapy, to see how all of the units come together to provide care.

In the classroom, their education is geared toward the unit they are going to, “Diseases I might see, devices used in the unit,” she said.

Linsao said she chose critical care because she likes a challenge, to figure things out like a puzzle. She also wanted to show “someone cares when a patient is in their most vulnerable state. What you do or say can make the tiniest difference to a patient or family,” she said, adding she likes the teamwork and environment in the ICU.

During her rotations, she said she also liked working in the pharmacy and respiratory units. In the future, she wants to get her bachelor’s degree and eventually become a nurse practitioner.

Linsao said staffing is an issue at St. Michael, and she worries about nursing burnout. But she has found everyone to be helpful and open to feedback. She feels very supported and that “speaks volumes for the company.”

St. Michael president Chad Melton has said hiring nurses from Kitsap County who want to work here is a key to dealing with the nursing shortage.

Toward that end, White said efforts are being made to increase the nursing program at Olympic from 70 to 90 a year.

“Twenty each year seems like a drop in the bucket, but it’s also huge,” White said, adding, “We encourage all to apply. That’s what we want.”

Once they graduate, they are accepted into the residency program at St. Michael as long as they sign a two-year commitment. Their parent company, CommonSpirit, recruits around the world.

But most of the hires are local. “When you hire within your community they care because they live here, and they’re taking care of their neighbors,” White said.

She said she moved to Kitsap years ago from Montana, in part because of the residency program. She started in labor and delivery, then became a charge nurse and assistant nurse manager before becoming residency coordinator.

White said a Community Foundation has been supportive of the nurse residency program from the start, helping with fundraisers. The St. Michael foundation has raised more than $3 million to date. White said the program shows new nurses, “We want to invest in their future. We try to build on that positive culture.”

Like Linsao, White said the cohorts that are hired twice a year have a “feeling of belonging to a team.” White said she still sees members of her cohort in units all over the hospital.

“We went through it together. That culture spreads through the whole hospital and builds that camaraderie. That will have an impact at our hospital for a long time.”

To apply

Start dates are in February and August.

Apply at

For details email

Kira White talks to one of the cohorts.
Mary Holt Linsao
St. Michael is running ads like this one to try to attract new employees to the hospital.
Nurses at computers.
A nurse goes over a chart.
Nurses from the residency program work in all departments at St. Michael.