RN new grad UNPAID residency program

U.S.A. California



I'm wondering about opinions on an unpaid RN residency. My community college has just started a post-licensure 3 month training program in the local hospitals. There is no stipend and no guarantee of a job at the end- just supervised experience and the possibility of convincing people to hire you at the end. As a result, the local participating hospitals have created a moratorium on hiring new grads who have not gone through their program. The managers get to interview the candidates before selecting them for their unit. The students are responsible for paying for the hospitals background check.

Does this sound legal? Ethical? It sounds to me like the hospitals have the opportunity to get new nurses trained to their units without having to pay for it. For people who can't move out of the area, it's the only option.



38,333 Posts

To me it sure sounds better than sitting around trying to do everything on your own. You get a little bit of experience which will help your confidence, and a whole lot of exposure. You should be spending a good portion of your time trying to make a good, lasting impression on the people in these facilities so that you can take advantage of any help they can give to get you hired. Good luck.


100 Posts

there is a thread started on this already... look here it really seems unfair. we already do clinicals with no pay…which we expect. but now we are expected to "perform" under the disguise of a “residency program” in hopes of getting hired. it is very discouraging.

gosh, how unhappy are the nurses with this organization? do they have such a problem with retention that they wont hire new grads for the beginning cause they don’t work out. i would have to question the real reason why.

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ghillbert, MSN, NP

3,796 Posts

Specializes in CTICU.

I don't know how the hospital gets away with that legally - generally for someone to be in their employ they have to be paid to work there in order to be covered for insurance purposes (unless they are covered by a school etc).

There's no way I would work for free.


6 Posts

The community college is covering the insurance. The three major hospitals- including Kaiser have adopted this policy.

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ghillbert, MSN, NP

3,796 Posts

Specializes in CTICU.

Oh, I bet they have!! It's a win-win if they get free workers!!

What part of California is the occurring in???? I know the other thread covering this same topic is in regards to a Northern California Sutter. Do you have to have attended the community college in order to participate???? I would be careful as this is uncharted territory. In the other thread, there was great concern that this might set a precedent that all new grads will one day need to work for free and it only goes downhill from there.

Breezy Girl

33 Posts

Hmm.... so the managers weren't fibbing me.... they really ARE starting to do this across the board.... Scary...

Lovely_RN, MSN

1,122 Posts

Just goes to show how undervalued nurses are. Now we are expected to work for free post-licensure? What a sad state of affairs. Sorry but I wouldn't do it, especially since there is zero guarantee of a job at the end of working for free for 3 months. It's ridiculous, what kind of arrangement is this? I am also sure the facilities will use this free labor as an excuse to reduce staffing. Just think about it? You have a license so even though you will be supervised you count as a nurse on the unit and that is going to save the hospital plenty of money.

Sigh, of course desperate new RNs will go for it and next thing you know every new RN will be expected to work for free. Welcome to the race to the bottom. I wonder how long it's going to be before nurses are back to making the equivalent of a fast food worker?


914 Posts

I question the legality of that arrangement. The Federal Labor Standards Act says an unemployer cannot use unpaid interns to displace regular employees. (Would you be used, for example, to provide summer vacation relief?) More specifically, the training has to be similar to that offered at a vocational school for a trainee to be unpaid. If you've graduated, haven't you gone beyond that point?

Here's a link for the rest of the criteria: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/scope/er15.asp


6 Posts

The other things I know about this program- and I am by no means part of the construction. 1) it is only for graduates of this particular community college. 2) Because you have to be post-licensure, you can't start until the semester after the semester you graduate-ie, the first class starts in June for the people who graduated in December, the second class will start fall for those who graduated in May. So the argument has been made that it is an opportunity to refresh clinical skills for people who have been out of school for 6 months without a job.

Problem is- even internal employees at the hospitals are not eligible for nurse positions unless they complete the residency first.

I hope I have a job before fall.

jjjoy, LPN

2,801 Posts

I do see the inherent problems with unpaid residencies. I'd argue for something like physician residency. Where the pay isn't equal to that of experienced physicians (or nurses in this case) since they don't have the same responsibilities, but they do get SOMETHING for their work as they ARE contributing to patient care. If it were to become a REQUIRED experience, as opposed to an option for those who WANT the extra experience, then that would mean a major shift in the "steps" to becoming a nurse. I think it could be a good thing if done carefully but I know there would be plenty of resistance to it, with good reason, within the nursing community.

If most new grads truly were prepared to function after just 6-8 weeks of precepting, then I'd tell the hospitals to suck it up and pay the new nurse regular nurse wages. But the strongest new grad programs out there have stretched new grad programs up to 6 months to accomodate the learning needs of the new grads. I can see why hospitals are looking for more cost effective ways to "bridge the gap" between school and real world bedside nursing. As it is, too many new grads don't stay at their first job because they either quit from the stress of it or "don't progress quickly enough" and get let go. After another one or two rounds of new hire orientation, many eventually build up the experience, confidence and competence to "survive" on their own off of orientation, with a full-patient load.

I'm sure there are many new grads out there who don't need such extended preceptorships. However, for those new grads who DO need more than 6-8 weeks to "bridge the gap" between the nowhere-near-reality student clinical experiences of some students and a full-fledged RN position, there currently aren't any options. I would've welcomed some kind of intermediary clinical experience to build up my competence and confidence as a nurse before applying for full-fledged acute care nursing jobs that fresh-out-of-school I didn't feel anywhere near capable of handling.

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