HealthSeptember 28, 2023

Preparing the next generation of practice-ready nurses

Retaining graduate nurses is critical to ensure a sustainable workforce for the future. Because student and graduate nurses face a steep learning curve when they enter a healthcare setting, receiving adequate support early on can improve their clinical competence and confidence – ultimately helping to reduce turnover.

At the 2023 National Nurse Education Conference, a panel discussion addressed the challenges to develop practice-ready nurses in education and the workplace.

Lippincott® Solutions Australia’s Regional Sales Manager Laura Chapman, RN, MACN, MCHSM, who chaired the session, said that supporting new graduates in transition has always been a challenge, which has increased over the past few years. COVID-19 and staff shortages in both educational and clinical settings have challenged nurse educators and nursing staff to change the way they facilitate learning.

With increasing cohorts of novice staff in patient care, Chapman said it is important to support students and graduates, as well as assist the people supporting them.

“Everyone needs support, whether it’s the undergraduate, the new graduate, or the preceptor,” she said. “Everyone needs to be given education and training to do their roles.”

Integrating student nurses into the paid workforce

Panelist Siobhan See, RN, Clinical Education Lead with UnitingCare Queensland, said the pandemic upended nursing education programs, particularly for university students who faced campus shutdowns and a shift to online learning.

“We found in the hospital system that students were really nervous to come on placement when they were eventually let back into the hospitals,” she said. “We tried to look at different ways to support them, including employing undergraduate students in nursing, from the second semester of their second year, and really integrate them into the hospital and wards.”

A research paper found the inclusion of these Undergraduate Students in Nursing (USiNs) at a Queensland pediatric hospital helped reduce staff nurses’ workload while increasing patient safety and quality of care.

Director of Nursing Education for Metro South Health in Queensland Bernadette Thomson, RN, RM Med, said allowing students to learn on-site through the USiN program boosted their confidence. “With USiN, we know students have a better understanding of what the patient will need, and if we support them, they will then be able to deliver that care,” she said.

Thomson added it is vital to support and supervise students, ensuring they are treated as a valued part of the workforce, and don’t feel the need to step outside of their scope of practice. “Bring them on, nurture them, and, hopefully, they will stay,” she said.

“We need those students to be developed and supervised properly, we need those grads to be nurtured and welcomed into the ward, but not at the expense of burning out our core staff because they’re the people we need to be role models and mentors,” she continued.

Nurses need to be ready to support the novices

The problem of exhausted staff trying to nurture the students and grads was a common issue brought up during the discussion.

One audience member mentioned that their student feedback after placements included “they just left us alone,” and “I should stop asking questions because I was getting in the way.”

“We’ve got stressed staff, we’ve got students feeling vulnerable, we’ve got a stressed system,” Thomson added. “I’ve always felt that students learn the art of nursing when they’re out on placement. But, how do you help your existing staff, who are under the pump every day, understand that just the slightest positive role model experience is going to make a world of difference to that student?”

It is important to remember we are educating our future.”

Preceptors play a valuable role

Thomson advocates for an intern year to bridge the gap between the third year of studies and being a working nurse, improving the ideal ratio of education staff to headcount.

“If we can keep our education staff teaching on the floor, that takes stress off the nursing staff,” she said. “It also means that our grads are getting the education that they need and it means that our staff are able to progress through skills.”

See said novice nurses were having to step up as senior people left, so it was important to provide career and learning pathways to develop their skills.

Having enough nurse educators on the units to provide support was also crucial. “We really need to get our educators back at the bedside,” she said.

Audience members also highlighted the need for nursing students to learn more socialization and conversational skills to more confidently communicate with patients and colleagues.

Others suggested newcomers needed help to adapt to the realities of being a working nurse in a “stressful, overwhelming, and busy” environment.

Learn how Lippincott Solutions can help nursing programs prepare students for practice and support new nurses on the job.
Learn More About Lippincott Solutions
Lippincott® Solutions
Our best-in-class suite of evidence-based, institutional software can help you to balance clinical and business needs by streamlining workflow, standardizing care, and improving reimbursable patient outcomes.
Back To Top