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7 Strategies to Support & Mentor New Nurses

The Key Intersection of the Nursing Industry’s Crossroads

Today’s nursing culture is entering a crossroads. As hospitals are hiring newly-graduated nurses who enter the workforce while more experienced nurses are preparing for retirement, nursing leaders are tasked with meeting the industry’s nursing shortage while also tackling a troubling rate of nursing turnover that is unfortunately all too common.

A Growing Nurse Workforce Shortage

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the current shortage of RNs in the U.S. is only expected to increase, as the need for healthcare expands and Baby Boomers age, ultimately retiring. The nursing industry community is working collaboratively to address the nursing shortage, as the crisis is only growing.

In fact, by 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2016-2026, lists RNs among the top occupations in terms of job growth, expected to reach 3.4 million by 2026—equaling 438,100 new registered nurses, roughly a 15% increase. This estimate however, does not include The Bureau’s projected need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year (through 2026) to account for the Baby Boomer’s retirement rate and standard demand for newly created positions.

Replacing the Irreplaceable

It’s important to note that as veteran nurses leave the healthcare industry and begin retirement, they’re taking with them years of experience and knowledge, that cannot be quickly replaced.

As the nursing leaders work to bring new nurses in the door, most available candidates are predominantly new graduate nurses—a stark contrast to their predecessors in terms of experience and the many patient care skills and knowledge that can only come with time and practice.

Nursing Turnover—A Costly Problem

While this reality is unsettling on its own—nurse leaders are faced with the additional reality that roughly 30% of new graduate nurses leave in the first year of practice, increasing to as much as 57% in the second year—all at a cost of $82,000 or more per nurse (per American Nurse Today).

Although some degree of turnover should be expected and is unfortunately unavoidable, many new graduate nurses report dissatisfaction with their jobs due to poor relationships with managers, peers, and interprofessional colleagues. Another common underlying factor is feeling overwhelmed with heavy workloads—an adjustment that takes months for any new nurse to grow comfortable and familiar with.

7 Strategies to Help Support Overwhelmed, First-Year Nurses

In all my years of nursing and countless encounters with new nurses, it’s safe to say that most new nurses encounter common fears, anxieties, and challenges—all of which I remember struggling with when I first began practicing. It’s often easy for more experienced nurses to forget how overwhelming these challenges can be for new nurses, making them appear unsympathetic or unapproachable.

In a nursing culture with a clear divide between experienced and novice nurses, veteran nurses can make the following efforts to help provide advice for new nurses and set their workplace up for long-term success.

1. Prioritize mentoring new nurses

Mentor a new nurse and provide a safe space for questions and guidance.

2. Provide praise

Show appreciation for new nurses’ efforts by praising them during safety huddles or in the break room.

3. Help them gain recognition for top performance

Nominate a new nurse through a quality/safety program, such as The DAISY Award® For Extraordinary Nurses.

4. Support new nurses during moments of overwhelm

Act as a “shoulder to cry on” for new nurses experiencing a tough day (I’ve yet to meet a fellow nurse that never cried on the floor).

5. Practice empathy for new nursing challenges

Remember how overwhelming the transition into nursing truly is, and never take the journey for granted.

6. Be patient and positive when training

Smile, and be patient as new nurses ask lots of questions and require feedback.

7. Connect and encourage

Share personal experiences and anecdotes to remind them why nursing is so rewarding and encourage them to find their way, even during the most challenging times.

The Setup for Success

Providing new nurses with a supportive environment will certainly help their onboarding process, but a foundation for success includes much more than just that. Placing nurses in the right specialty at the start of their nursing practice will not only leverage their unique skills, critical thinking, and personality attributes—it will also increase their job satisfaction, decreasing turnover rates.

Relias Assessments (formerly Prophecy®) is the national leader in holistic, healthcare assessments. Using assessments to make informed hiring and placement decisions, results in long-term nurse success, satisfaction, and retention. Covering 40+ nursing specialties, Relias Assessments identifies and matches top performers in roles that best fit their strengths.

Designed by nurses and validated by clinical researchers, its power lies in predicting a candidate’s likelihood of success in the specific role by evaluating three areas:

  • Clinical Competency: provides insight into specialty-specific job knowledge and key skills needed for independent practice
  • Situational Competency: measures critical thinking and assesses how a candidate would respond in various clinical scenarios
  • Behavioral Characteristics: assesses individual personality attributes to match with a particular unit or preceptor Relias Assessments’ reports generate rich data on the individual nurse, which is used during the hiring process to screen candidates and shape interviews.

In addition, this data is useful during post-hire for customized onboarding, enhanced life-long learning, and leadership succession plans.


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