Graduate Nurse Residencies

Graduate Nurse Residencies are offered twice each year:

July and February

You may apply now at

(keyword Graduate Nurse)


Designed for the new graduate nurse who is licensed as an RN before the start date, this year-long program facilitates the transition from student nurse to professional nurse using a myriad of educational techniques. The length of the orientation period will vary between 12 and 20 weeks, depending on the unit and/or specialty. During this time, an RN preceptor provides support, encouragement, and expertise, and shares in the daily rewards and challenges of nursing at Penn State Hershey. Once orientation is complete, the Residency continues with required monthly seminars, educational opportunities, and activities that provide an atmosphere of camaraderie where participants celebrate their personal growth, skill development, and burgeoning self confidence with one another. These four-hour seminars provide the opportunity for residents to build a supportive network with other nurses who are just beginning their careers at Penn State Hershey.

The residency is a full-time position that transitions seamlessly into a full-time staff nurse position. Full pay and benefits are effective the first day of hire. Graduate Nurse Residents are expected to remain full-time on one unit for the entire year of the program, as well as actively participate in all generalized and specialty learning opportunities that are offered.

Quote from a recent Graduate Nurse Resident: "The residency prepared me to be the competent nurse that I am today. Having the support of my preceptor and peers was a huge help when days were tough."

To speak with a Nurse Recruiter, please call Ryan Hartnett at 717-531-8696 or email

General Nurse Residency Questions

Unit Questions

Application Questions

Interview Questions

After the Interview Questions


General Nurse Residency Questions

What is a Graduate Nurse Residency?

The Graduate Nurse Residency is a structured twelve-month program that facilitates the transition from student nurse to fully functioning and competent staff nurse on the unit. The program is designed to provide the necessary knowledge and ongoing support, utilizing such strategies as classroom learning, seminars, case studies, small group discussion, simulation, precepted clinical practice, evidence-based practice exploration/projects, and personal interactions with expert facilitators.

Is this a paid Nurse Residency?

Yes. In fact, this is not at all like a medical student's residency where you put in time for educational purposes and then leave.  At Penn State Hershey, all Graduate Nurse Residents are selected to fill permanent staff nurse positions on the hiring unit. You will receive a full RN salary and comprehensive benefits beginning the day you start New Employee Orientation.

What shift will I be working?

As a Graduate Nurse Resident, your offer letter will indicate a varied shift, and you most likely be assigned to a full-time night-shift rotation. Once the orientation period is complete, you will have the opportunity to apply to other available full-time shifts on your unit, as they become available. Your full-time status must be maintained for the entire year of the Nurse Residency.

What uniforms will I need?

Uniform colors are specific to the various units, and will be discussed during your interview. While a few units provide scrubs, for most areas you will be responsible for the purchase and care of uniforms and/or scrubs.

I already have my license.  Must I complete a Nurse Residency in order to be hired at Penn State Hershey?

Yes, all new graduates are required to be licensed and complete our Graduate Nurse Residency program. If you have a minimum six months of acute care (hospital) RN experience, you may apply for a staff nurse position and potentially be hired without the Residency. However, more experienced nurses will present strong competition for those positions. 

Do I need to already be licensed when the Residency begins?

Yes.  The start dates provide sufficient time for passing NCLEX prior to the beginning of the residency.

What happens if I fail boards before the Residency begins?

Unfortunately, this does sometimes happen.  If so, our policy states that your position will be filled by the next person on the waiting list, and you may or may not be eligible to apply for the next cohort, depending on when you graduated.   So give it your very best shot, and please let us know immediately if you do not pass. Conversely, if you are on the waiting list, we advise you to pursue other opportunities, but know that something could still become available here. 

Is there a minimum GPA for acceptance?

Because the Residency is an extension of the studying/learning experience, a GPA of 3.0 and higher is preferred.

Is a BSN required in order to be hired as a Graduate Nurse Resident?

YES you must hold a Bachelor's degree in Nursing prior to the start date of the Graduate Nurse Residency.

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Unit Questions

Should I apply to staff nurse jobs on the units that interest me?

No. As a Graduate Nurse Resident, you will apply to just ONE position, the posting that begins with the letters GNR. If you apply to other nursing positions, your applications will be deemed ineligible based on lack of experience. When you apply to the GNR position, you will have an opportunity to state your areas of interest on the emailed Questionnaire that follows.

If I am offered and accept a position, may I transfer to another unit when another position opens up?

The expectation is clear that a Graduate Nurse Resident must remain on the hiring unit for at least the full year of the residency.  Ideally, you will form bonds and want to stay on the unit for years to come.

Will I know which units are hiring and how many positions they will have?

Due to the fluidity of our projected staffing needs, the exact numbers are not known to anyone (including managers and recruiters) until we are well into the application process.  This is partially, though not solely based on budget, staffing situation, and on the availability of preceptors. 

To how many units will my Portfolio be sent?

Your completed Portfolio will be viewable to every hiring managers in a shared folder, and using the Questionnaire spreadsheet as a guide, they will view the appropriate Portfolios and make interview selections.  Hence, it is very important that you thoughtfully list your unit choices on the Questionnaire.  

How will I know what type of patients the different units specialize in, and which units interest me most?

Click here and it will take you to the unit descriptions.

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Application Questions

How difficult is the application process?

While the process is straight-forward and not difficult, it can seem overwhelming at first glance.  We do not apologize for seeking the best possible nurses, and in order to succeed in finding them, our requirements may be more than expected.  To help you decide whether to spend the time and energy applying, and to make the process more manageable if you do, we break it down into four basic steps:  (#3 and 4 may be completed in any order)

  1. Application - estimated time to complete is 1 hour
  2. Questionnaire - estimated time to complete is 10 minutes 
  3. Professional Portfolio - estimated time to complete is 4-6 hours (spread out over a few days)
  4. Reference Check - estimated time to initiate it is 10 minutes

Once I apply, when will I know whether I am chosen for an interview?

Interview invitations will be emailed a couple of weeks before the designated interview dates as listed on the Questionnaire.  If you have not heard anything by two weeks prior to the interviews, you may assume that you were not selected to interview this time around.  Once all the interviews are scheduled, you will receive notification one way or another.

Which email address should I provide?

Please create an email address that is not affiliated with your school, and check it often.  The reason is that sometimes your school's web portal may be too small and/or security may be too high to receive our communications.  Plus, should we need to contact you after you graduate, your school address may be invalid.  Check your email frequently.  Please document and double-check the spelling of this non-school email address on both your application and on your Questionnaire.

I was an Extern last year. Do I need to reapply?

Yes, you will need to go through the entire application process, and put forth your best effort to secure an interview. Applications, resumes, cover letters and transcripts are still required.  After you apply, you may begin submitting your Portfolio (see website for details), and at some point in the process, you will receive an emailed Questionnaire to complete. If you are still employed with us as a Patient Safety Companion, CNA, Extern, etc. please apply online using the "internal" application.  If you are still on payroll at PSHMC, you will not need to be drug screened or fingerprinted again.  Also, you will be exempt from much of the new hire paperwork.  As for references, your evaluation from your Externship will be part of your Portfolio, as well as a new Checkster report .   

Besides completing the online application, what else do I need to do?

Once your application is submitted, you may submit your Professional Portfolio (see website for details). At some point you will receive an electronic Questionnaire.  This is an important document and should be completed thoughtfully and accurately.  At some point in the process, you will be instructed on our electronic reference checking program.  The Professional Portfolio will include:

  • Resume - list all education and experience, including dates.
  • Cover Letter - If you are absolutely sure of where you want to work, you may talk about that in the cover  letter.  On the other hand, if you are open to several possibilities, do NOT specify precise units, but rather indicate broader specialties.  The rationale behind keeping it general is that you may need to interview in more than one place.  
  • Unofficial Transcript - can be found on your school's website.  If you are hired, you will need to either email or bring your final Official Transcript, or copy of your diploma to New Employee Orientation.
  • Clinical Narrative (see details on the Clinical Narrative tab) - Your narrative will be most beneficial if you write about a specialty where you hope to interview.

What is the difference between Unofficial and Official transcripts?

Unofficial transcripts can be viewed by you and printed from your school's website at will.  Official transcripts are mailed from your Bursar's Office, with your school's official seal.  Initially we only need your unofficial transcript; if you are hired, we will need your official transcript or your diploma.

If I submit my Portfolio immediately, do I have a better chance of being hired?

As soon as we receive your Portfolio, we will add your application, your Checkster report, and a cover page to it.  It is then made available on a shared drive for the Nurse Managers, so it is helpful for us, and advantageous to you if we receive it early and are ready to upload it quickly.  Please do not wait until the last week,  

May I send all my information by US Postal Service?

Please do not. We prefer to receive everything electronically. It is recommended that you email the entire application portfolio simultaneously via individual PDF attachments. This ensures the efficient receipt and storage of all documents. Please identify yourself on all correspondence, as we typically receive several hundred applications.  Please click on the "Portfolio" tab for specific directions on how to submit the Professional Portfolio.

Do I need written references from my professors?

Thankfully, NO, as we use a company called Checkster to perform electronic reference checks.  You will be asked (by email) for seven email addresses of people who are familiar with your quality of work.  If at least three of them respond, the report is considered valid.  DO NOT be tempted to submit more than seven, as it could work against you.  We recommend that you utilize past employers, professors, instructors, preceptors, supervisors, and coaches.  Please let your references know ahead of time that they will receive a survey that is quick, easy, anonymous, accurate, but time sensitive and must be completed promptly. To reiterate, the minimum number of respondents required for a valid report is three.

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Interview Questions

Am I guaranteed an interview if I apply?

Not everyone who applies will be granted a face-to-face interview.  Managers will decide how many interviews to schedule based on their available positions.  They will decide who to interview based on the Professional Portfolio, which you may submit electronically once your application is completed..

Will I be granted an interview wherever I want to work?

We do strive to place you where you will be content to grow and contribute, as training a new graduate is a big commitment for a nursing unit.  When submitting your Questionnaire, you will state your top three preferred nursing areas.  While we will attempt to schedule interviews with those nurse managers, some specialties are more popular than others and being granted an interview in those areas may be more challenging.

When will interviews be conducted?

We will set aside three interview days in November (for the February cohort) and three interview days in April (for the July cohort). To accommodate the managers' schedules, we will limit interviews to those three days.  If we have an October cohort, we will work to coordinate the manager and applicant schedules.

Is preference given to Penn State or to other local college students?

We hire students from all over the country and they are all evaluated on the same criteria.  With that said, managers must consider the possibility that someone who relocates to Hershey may have difficulty acclimating and leave prematurely.  To reiterate, our Graduate Nurse Residents do come from many different states, and most are able to put down strong and lasting roots in the community.

If I am not local, might I be reimbursed for my travel expenses if I come to interview?  Do you provide relocation assistance if I am hired?
Unfortunately, the answer to both questions is no.  Your travel to interview and/or relocation costs are not reimbursed. 

On what criteria is the hiring decision made?

Different managers place varying degrees of emphasis on hiring criteria, but in general they look at your desired unit, GPA, past experience, references, clinical narrative, and interview score.  Critical thinking skills may be assessed with interview questions based on clinical scenarios.Of course, they are seeking applicants who will bring a positive influence to their team. 

What can I do to prepare for the interview?

  • Plan Ahead. Research Penn State Hershey and the position if possible. Review your work experiences, and be ready to support past career and school accomplishments with specific information targeted toward the needs of the organization. 
  • Dress appropriately. This is a competitive job interview.  Dress professionally, preferably in a suit. 
  • Be on time. It is best to arrive at the interview area 5 minutes before the scheduled interview time. If you find that you are too early, you may visit our Starbuck's coffee shop or gift shop in the east wing lobby.

Do you have any advice for the interview?

  • Awareness: An interview is a two-way exchange of information. In addition to researching Penn State Hershey, demonstrate your interest by formulating questions in advance to ask the interviewer. 
  • Eye Contact: Maintain eye contact with your interviewer. Demonstrate that you want the job with your interest in the position, and in that particular nursing unit.
  • Positive Attitude: In particular, avoid negative comments about past employers or professors.  Listen and adapt, be sensitive to the style of the interviewer.  Pay attention to details, as they may offer helpful clues to assist you in tailoring your presentation.
  • Ability to Relate: Try to relate your answers to the interviewer and to Penn State Hershey. Focus mostly on achievements that would be relevant to the position. Provide answers that are specific to the questions.
  • Be yourself!
  • NOTE:  Request a business card after the interview, and get the email addresses of all the interviewers before leaving.  Nurse Recruitment does not have the resources to investigate and give you that information afterward.

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After the Interview Questions

When will selections be made?

We anticipate that selections will be made by December for the February cohort, and by early May for the July cohort.

Will I be contacted whether I get the position or not?

Those who are being offered a position will be contacted first.  It may take a couple of weeks for those who are not offered a position to hear that news definitively.  We apologize in advance for the delay, but if offers are declined, we are still working through the list of possible hires, and will not know the final outcome until later.

If I am not chosen, will I be offered feedback as to why, and on how to improve my interview skills?

While we would like to provide these services, it is simply not feasible with the number of applications we receive.  If you are invited to interview, you are obviously a very good candidate, and most likely the decision was made on very small differences.  Perhaps an instructor at your school is a good resource. 

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Penn State Hershey Medical Center earned a second designation as a Magnet hospital in September 2012. The Medical Center is part of an elite group of Magnet organizations worldwide. Less than 7 percent of U.S. health care organizations have earned this recognition.

In issuing the redesignation, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) singled out Penn State Hershey for exemplary practices in three areas: the advancement of nursing research, the use of technology to incorporate input from nurses in the design of patient care areas, and involving nurses in the development of protocols for protecting human research subjects. Magnet redesignation underscores the high quality of care that our nurses and staff provide to patients and their families each and every day. This achievement demonstrates the dedication all of our caregivers have to excellence and to producing the best possible patient, organizational, and community outcomes.

Penn State Hershey Nurses achieve excellence in nursing each day caring for patients and families.

Learn more about Magnet Recognition on the ANCC Website.

Graduate Nurse Residency - Specialty Areas

NOTE:  the Emergency Department no longer accepts new graduates

  • Acute Care – 12-14 weeks of Orientation
    • 3 South Addition West - (website under construction)
    • 4 Acute Care - Ortho/ENT/Urology/Plastics
    • 5 Acute Care - Surgical
    • 6 Acute Care - Medical
  • Intensive/Critical Care – 20 weeks of Orientation
    • Medical Intensive Care Unit
    • Surgical Intensive Care Unit
    • Heart & Vascular Institute - Critical Care Unit
    • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
    • Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
  • Intermediate Care – 14 weeks of Orientation
    • Medical Intermediate Care Unit
    • Surgical Intermediate Care Unit
    • Heart & Vascular Progressive Care Unit
    • Pediatric Intermediate Care Unit
  • Other
    • Neuroscience Critical Care Unit - 20 weeks of Orientation
    • Pediatrics Acute Care - 14 weeks of Orientation
    • Pediatric Oncology - 14 weeks of Orientation
    • Penn State Cancer Institute (inpatient) -  14 weeks of Orientation
    • Women's Health - 14 weeks of Orientation
    • Pediatric Oncology - Outpatient Infusion - to be determined
  • Perioperative Orientation Course – 45 weeks of Orientation


Staffing the patient care units is a fluid process, and depending on budget, number of available preceptors, and long-range organizational goals, the number of graduate nurse residents can change right up until the offers are made, though 50 is an approximate number.

  • Heart and Vascular Intensive Care
  • Heart and Vascular Progressive Care
  • Surgical Intensive Care
  • Surgical Intermediate Care
  • Medical Intensive Care
  • Medical Intermediate Care
  • Penn State Cancer Institute
  • Women's Health
  • Acute Care / Med Surg (four units)
  • Neuroscience Integrated Care
  • Pediatric Acute Care
  • Pediatric Oncology
  • Pediatric Intensive Care
  • Pediatric Intermediate Care
  • Neonatal Intensive Care
  • Perioperative (OR) Course

If you'd like to join our renowned team of nurses at Penn State Hershey, please begin by reading all of the pertinent information posted on the website, including the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Updates. Next, complete an online Employment Application.  To apply, click on the link below, and then click the "search" button.  The listings are alphabetical, so scroll down and choose Graduate Nurse Residency.  Follow the directions, noting that current employees are distinguished from external applicants.  Once you apply, you may submit your Professional Portfolio (see website for details).  At some point in the process, a nurse recruiter will email a Questionnaire to the email address that you provide on the application. When you return the electronic Questionnaire, the application review process begins.  If you do not receive expected documents, please check your spam folder and if necessary, instruct your ISP to allow our emails without filtering them out.

Once you complete the application, you may submit (via PDF attachments) your Professional Portfolio, which will include:

  • Cover Letter:
    • Reason for applying
    • Related experience
    • Expectations of the program
    • What Magnet accreditation will mean for your practice as a Graduate Nurse Resident
    • Why you should be chosen for this Graduate Nurse Residency
    • Note: unless you are positive of your unit choice, do not include your areas of interest at this point, as that may change.
      (name the document as:  a- cover letter - last name, first name)
  • Resume - please email a stand-alone copy and also copy it into the application
    (name the document as:  b- resume - last name, first name) 
  • Unofficial Transcript - emailed to us. (Official transcripts will be needed later).
    (name the document as:  c- transcript - last name, first name) 
  • Clinical Narrative - (see Clinical Narrative tab for details)
    (name the document as:  d- narrative- last name, first name)  

For the quickest and most accurate result, please convert each document to PDF format, and attach them all to an email addressed to When your email is opened by the recruiter, there should be four documents attached and labeled this way (include the letters a, b, c, and d):

a- cover letter - Doe, Jane (your name)
b- resume - Doe, Jane (your name)
c- transcript - Doe, Jane (your name)
d- narrative - Doe, Jane (your name)

At some point in the process, we will email you and begin the electronic reference checking process through a company called Checkster.  We will add your application, your Checkster report, and a cover sheet to the documents that you send, creating your completed Professional Portfolio, which will be placed in a shared file to be viewed by any and all managers.  Based mainly on your Questionnaire responses and Professional Portfolio, managers will decide which candidates they want to interview.  For those who are selected, face-to-face interviews will be conducted over three days in November and three days in April (see interview tips). The process will be very competitive; if you are not chosen, please be encouraged, as there will be other opportunities as you gain experience.

To speak with a Nurse Recruiter, call Ryan Hartnett at 717-531-8696 or email

How to Write a Narrative

Don't Underestimate the Power of this Document
Patricia Benner, Ph.D., R.N., believes that evaluation of practice is best done through narratives because they describe the practice within a context. The quality of care delivered is best judged with knowledge of the circumstances surrounding that care. The goal of a narrative is to visualize nursing practice.

With that in mind, the following dialogue was developed to assist you in writing your own narrative.

What is a clinical narrative?
A clinical narrative is a written statement of actual nursing practice. It is a story of how you provided care for a patient and family. This could be how you prepared a patient and/or family for something that changed their lifestyle when they return home, i.e., an amputation. Or it could be how you helped a young couple prepare for the eventual death of their two-year-old with leukemia. Your narrative is the story of a patient care situation that is meaningful to you. One that may have caused you to reflect on your practice, may continue to influence your practice as you confront similar situations, is a good example of how your care made a difference in the outcome of a particular patient/family. You might say that you have grown in your professional practice as a result of this experience; that the relationship and interventions you shared reinforced what you already believed.

What is the purpose of a clinical narrative?
Simply stated, the purpose of a clinical narrative is to articulate nursing and to make your practice visible. The purpose is also to see the growth and development you have made over time. It assists you in reflecting on your practice.

What should I write about my practice?
Often nurses are not aware of their contributions to the care of the patient and family, or that there may have been more they could have done or other ways a situation could have been handled.

By writing about an experience and sharing it with your peers, you can see your own growth as a professional. You also receive direction for broadening your clinical practice. Writing about your clinical practice helps you to reflect on that practice and relate experience to patient care situations in the future. It also brings to light the skills you currently possess.

How do I begin to write this clinical narrative?
Think of your most recent group of patients (maybe a primary patient). What did you do that you remember? This can be a patient that you cared for yesterday, last week, or within the past year. How did you interact with that patient? Your narrative does not have to be the one that involved a life-threatening situation. Choose one that involves your relationship with a patient and family. What did you and the patient plan for his/her care? Why did you make the choices you did? Write as though you are trying to have someone understand your practice.

If I write a narrative about how my practice had an impact on the patient's care, that means I use the word "I", right?
It must be a first person narrative. It is always difficult to write about our self. To describe your practice, you have to think in terms of yourself. You are the one who made the difference, so talk about it and use the word "I".

So I selected a patient who I am going to talk about, now what?
Sit down in a quiet place and write your story:

  1. Set the scene for the story – let the reader visualize your patient and the situation. Write one or two paragraphs opening the scene.

  2.  Involve yourself early on in this scene.

  3. Tell what you did, what you thought about, and why you made the choices you did. Write two or three sentences. The assessment should be on going, based on feedback during the intervention with the patient and family.

  4. As with any story, there is a beginning and an end. The reader should know what happened as a result of your intervention, and what this whole experience means to your practice or says to you about your practice.

As you proceed with the story, talk about your role with this patient, your assessment of the care that was needed, the care you gave (your intervention), how you involved the patient and family, and the advocacy role you played with the patient. Include the reason(s) why you made the choices you did. What was your thought process? Talk about how you mobilized your resources or extended your intervention outside the hospital. As you write the narrative, you will realize how your care influenced the patient's outcome.

Timeless Tips for a Terrific Interview


  1. Show an interest in the organization by researching prior to the interview. A good source of information is the Penn State Hershey Medical Center website.
  2. Compile a resume, a list of professional references, your last evaluation, and your current professional license in a simple, but tasteful portfolio.
  3. Dress for success. You have just one chance to make a good first impression. In a professional environment such as Penn State Hershey, professional attire is expected (a dark suit is best). Avoid jeans, khakis, capris, tank tops, exposed mid-drifts, and party dresses.
  4. Lean toward conservative in choosing shoes, jewelry, nail polish and hairstyles. Limit the number of earrings; cover tattoos, and use colognes and perfumes sparingly, if at all.
  5. Use a GPS or map service for specific directions, and show up at least five  minutes early to the designated location.


  1. Greet the interviewer with a firm (not bone-crushing) handshake, and establish the eye contact that will last throughout the interview. Exhibit confidence (not cockiness) and strive to be relaxed, but not lax.
  2. Remember that the interview is a two-way exchange of information. Avoid the impulse to talk too much or too little. Be prepared to explain your clinical skills, as well as give very specific and personal answers to such questions as:
  • What would you change about your current job? (Stay away from negative comments about past managers).
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses? ("I'm a perfectionist" is overused)
  • Who do you admire most, and why? (Specific and personal)
  • How do you see yourself contributing to Penn State Hershey?
  • Etcetera ... know and share your authentic self with the interviewer.
  1. Be prepared to ask questions pertaining to the unit, the job's expectations, training requirements and opportunities, benefits, etc. However, avoid introducing the subject of pay until you are reasonably sure that an offer is forthcoming.
  2. End the interview with a firm handshake, request a business card and email addresses of your interviewers, and ask about the next step.


  1. Follow up with an email and/or a simple hand-written thank you note, including any unanswered questions and/or additional references.

Best wishes ...