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Transitioning new graduates into practice is harder than ever

In my (virtual) conversations with leaders about the impact of Covid-19 on the nursing workforce, many are concerned about new graduate nurses. Specifically, how to safely transition novice nurses from academia into today’s practice environment. This is a very valid concern for two reasons:

  1. Without a doubt, new graduates saw significant disruption to their education with shortened, suspended, or otherwise compromised fourth quarter didactic education and clinical rotations. As these new graduates move into practice, they not only missed several months of education, but also lost out on clinical skill building. Many spent months without stepping into a hospital or care site.

  2. Perhaps more importantly though, the practice environment is dramatically changed due to the pandemic. Care acuity has increased due to both Covid and delayed care, and the incumbent workforce is tired. This includes your educators and preceptors, and some organizations who have fewer staff to help with new graduate education due to mandatory quarantines, voluntary leave, furloughs, and retirements. New graduate skills and competencies are also evolving, including working with virtual technology, team skills, and coping with moral distress, while social distancing requirements are up-ending our traditional approaches to in-person learning and networking. And amidst all this, new grads (along with staff) remain worried about their safety—what a time to join our incredible profession!

As with many things right now, the most effective way to address these challenges and effectively transition new graduates isn’t clear. To that end, the Nursing Executive Center urges all nurse leaders and educators to re-assess their traditional transition plans using the following questions.

  1. Should we bring all our new grads in at once or stagger start dates to provide more hands-on support?
  2. Should we place new grads on the units that they were originally promised, or do you recommend any interim or permanent changes based on volumes, patient acuity, Covid cases, etc.?
  3. Are all units ready for new graduates? See our new tool to help assess this.
  4. Did you lose any resources needed to support complete onboarding and orientation?
  5. What additional skills and behaviors need to be mastered early, amidst Covid?
  6. How will you prioritize these skills and behaviors against existing onboarding and orientation curricula?
  7. What adjustments may be needed to the scheduling and timeline for all onboarding and orientation activities, including but not limited to shorter shifts and extension?
  8. Are your educators ready from the standpoint of recovery, resilience, and skills?
  9. Are your preceptors ready from the standpoint of recovery, resilience, and skills?
  10. What are the unique emotional support and communication needs of your novice staff; and are you prepared to respond?

Effective onboarding of novice nurses amidst Covid presents new challenges, but we must get this right. The Nursing Executive Center stands ready to assist you and your educators with evaluating your current novice nurse transition plans through personalized, 90-minute virtual workshops. Alternatively, you can watch my recent national webinar, which is available on-demand. Finally, I can’t stress enough the importance of continued emotional support for all staff.

As you continue to experiment and learn, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or your early successes. As always, we are here to help.

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