Making the transition from nursing student to actual working nurse can be difficult without adequate preparation. Prospective students should ask questions and consider several factors when assessing potential work environments. Some areas of particular importance include first-year turnover rates, availability of orientation and preceptor programs, and the level of support provided to new nurses. Observing a nursing unit closely for several hours can also provide considerable information about how a new nurse will fit in with the establish job culture and workflow.
Turnover Rates – An Important Indicator
The turnover rate for first-year nurses at a health care facility offers a good indication of how the employer treats these nurses. If the turnover rate is higher than 20 percent, a new nurse is unlikely to be happy working in the environment.
Transitioning into Patient Responsibility
Many facilities offer orientation and preceptor programs designed to familiarize new nurses with the daily routines, procedures, and coworkers on the job. Experts have found that new nurses are more likely to remain in a job position if an experienced preceptor is provided. Preceptors act as teachers and coaches for a new nurse and are often made available after a general orientation, working on a new nurse’s particular shift to answer questions and provide help with clinical decisions.
Ongoing Support for New Nurses
New nurses should also ask the nurse manager at a potential job site about how much clinical, social, and emotional support would be available. Such support may include giving a new nurse access to experienced nurses with whom experiences like a death at work can be discussed. It is important that this support is made available on the day a critical event occurs, and not weeks later.
Observe Actual Working Conditions
One of the best ways to determine the actual working conditions of a health care setting is simple observation. When considering a job, new nurses should visit the job environment and remain on site for several hours, rather than just taking a tour through the unit. Observation of a longer duration will provide a good idea of the unit’s interpersonal dynamics.
First Job Choice Considerations
New nurses may want to consider taking their first job on a specialty unit like pediatrics, since the patients on a specialty unit will be more homogeneous than patients encountered on a medical-surgical floor, for example. The range of patients on such a floor can be confusing for a new nurse, and he or she may suffer excessive anxiety from the perceived overload. Working in a specialty unit like intensive care provides new nurses with more controlled patient populations and an easier entry into the real world of nursing.
Get Experience During Nursing School
Experienced nurses recommend that students work for a potential employer, if possible, while pursing the nursing degree. The work experience will be put to good use if the new nurse goes on to take a job at the same facility, since he or she will already be familiar with the staff and culture of the job.