Addressing Staffing Shortages and Supporting New Nurses: The Designated Orientation Unit (DOU) at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital
Published June 27, 2023

Nursing shortages continue to pose significant challenges for health care organizations nationwide. Still, The University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) continues to tackle nationwide staffing shortages by implementing a new program to attract and support graduated nurses at CVPH.


CVPH's Designated Orientation Unit (DOU) was launched last summer in the Progressive Care Unit to help nurses confidently transition from the classroom to the bedside. Today, the DOU has already shown results as the program prepares to welcome its second year of Graduate Nurses (GNs) starting their careers at CVPH.


"Starting any new job comes with difficulties that can feel overwhelming at first. As a new nurse fresh out of school, there is [a unique] set of challenges," CVPH Associate Chief Nursing Officer Carly Haag, MS, RN, NPD-BC, CCRN-K, stated. "What we're doing is giving these recent graduates a chance to get their bearings, ask questions of their more experienced colleagues, and gain confidence as we give them the tools and training needed for a successful start to what we hope is a long career with us here at CVPH." 


CVPH's commitment to supporting new nurses extends beyond the DOU. The hospital's New Nurse Residency program provides ongoing education and guidance, allowing GNs to build relationships with colleagues and enhance their skills throughout the year. The DOU is not only a "shining example" of how The UVM Health Network innovates to meet the needs of nurses just out of school. The program is also key when addressing the Network's workforce challenges, specifically at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.


"We need more nurses. And programs like the DOU show that CVPH is [where] you can start your career, get the support you need, and grow in a way that meets your personal and professional goals," Ms. Haag continued. "And we're seeing the results, with new nurses coming here because of the DOU and our residency program. We have to think differently [regarding] recruitment and the DOU is one of the many steps we're taking to attract talented health care professionals, nursing and otherwise, to CVPH."


Experienced Preceptors run the DOU program and offer invaluable support and mentorship to the GNs from day one. Preceptors are veteran nurses who voluntarily dedicate their time, creating a team-based atmosphere, always ensuring consistent practices and strengthening the organization. Ethan Stansbury, a CVPH RN and Preceptor in the DOU stated, "In this kind of setting, where everyone wants to be there and help grow these new nurses, it's just a positive environment all around." 


CVPH Nursing leaders also report learning experiences from building connections with new GNs. Anna Upton, RN, and DOU Preceptor reported, "The new nurses just bring a breath of fresh air and excitement. They cause me to question things and look up protocols as I'm trying to teach them, and that means our patients will benefit in the long run because we're providing even better care," she reflected. "It's fun to see how they grow over those 12 weeks we're initially working together."


Willa McKinley, a new nurse who participated in the DOU as a GN last summer, emphasizes its supportive environment: "It gave us a team feeling of 'Look, we're all in this together,' and if we have a question or if we're struggling, there are tons of people on this floor who [are] here to help." 


Are you a Graduating Nurse? The DOU and New Nurse Fellowship programs at CVPH could be your next step to a fulfilling health care and nursing career. CVPH has available nurse positions in various care settings and other clinical and non-clinical jobs. For more information on what is available at CVPH and other healthcare partners in the UVM Health Network, visit

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