The beginning of summer is an exciting time. Children are out of school, and it is time to break out the swimwear. Vacations are on the books. Barbeques, picnics, and outside concerts and events keep our weekends busy.
Those of us in academia see the graduation of our students and their transition to becoming newly licensed nurses. We also see the graduation of other healthcare professionals as they enter the workforce. You, as bedside clinicians and leaders, see the influx of these newly licensed healthcare professionals at your facilities. It is a wonderful time to be a part of the health care team. But it is not always a wonderful experience for those newly licensed nurses.
Feeg, Mancino, Vasquez-Clarfield, Garrison, Mahler, and Vance surveyed newly licensed nurses and discussed their transition to practice processes in 2021. The results from this work were published in 2022. Those surveyed were members of the National Student Nurses Association while they were in nursing school. I would like to briefly share some of those results here with you. I do this not as a shaming exercise. Rather, I look at this as a great way to reflect on what we do in our practice, how we support one another, and how we may continue to grow with our newly licensed colleagues.
It was no surprise to find that most newly licensed nurses had found employment within three months of graduating (Feeg et. al., 2022, p. 172). What I did find surprising is that only 29.4% of respondents (n=2,664) stated that they felt they were supported by a mentor at their place of employment. Those who did not have a mentor or support person in the workplace experienced more stress on the job. Some of the stressors included verbal abuse and bullying and unsafe staffing ratios. Respondents who had more simulated clinical experiences reported more stress than their colleagues who had actual patient care experience during their nursing education (Feeg et. al., 2022, 2022, pp. 175-179).
My takeaways from this article are simple in thought but not simple to put into action. We know that nurses are still leaving the profession for various reasons. We anticipated that we would see a potential shortage in 2020 due to retirements. We also know nurses left the profession due to the pandemic. Newly licensed nurses filled the gap. However, we also know that these newly licensed nurses do not have a great transition to practice and that they still need our support. We also know that clinical space continues to be a challenge for nursing programs nationwide. Therefore, nursing programs are using simulation as the replacement model for the lost clinical rotations.
The lack of experienced mentors working as clinical nurses is impacting our newly licensed colleagues. They are not finding the support that they need. Newly licensed nurses are not getting the clinical experience needed to help them with the transition to practice. So, what can we do to help this?
I suggest that the biggest thing nurses can do is have frank discussions with your leadership teams. Discuss the barriers to having nursing students on your units. What can be done to overcome these barriers? Are there unit-based educators who can help these students on your units? What other resources are available to help you and the students?
I also ask that we all look at our work environments. What does that look like to an outsider? Are we treating each other with kindness and grace? Are we supporting each other on those shifts when everything is going wrong? Do we have a way to debrief and get through those tough times? Again, work with your leadership teams and explore ways to address these heavy issues. Trust me, they know you are over the pizza parties, but we need to be clearer in stating what would be meaningful for us to thank us for a job well done.
My hope is that we can create solutions that will increase support for the newly licensed nurses. One area that would be meaningful for these nurses would be to offer adequate (not perfect) clinical placements and experiences. I say not perfect because there is no perfect world, but we know what we can do to make the experiences meaningful for nursing students. Start the support systems while these nurses are in school. Be open to having nursing students on your units and assist them the way you wanted to be assisted when you were a student.
My other hope is that we can continue building healthier practice environments that support students in their learning and clinicians at the bedside. We know bedside clinicians are tired. We have students who are ready to step in and willing to help. The students just need a place to help out and demonstrate their skills. We can do this together. The two can coexist and support each other. We just need to find a way to make this happen, so it is a win-win for everyone involved. This is going to be a team effort, and we can rise to this occasion.
Have a wonderful summer, and please welcome the newly licensed nurses to this amazing profession!
Feeg, V., Mancino, D., Vasquez-Clarfield, B., Garrison, C., Mahler, E., & Vance, C. (2022). A national perspective on new nurse graduate transition to practice: Secondary analysis of the National Student Nurses' Association 2021 new graduate survey . Nursing Economic$, 167-185.