School of Nursing
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
This qualitative, phenomenological study sought to answer the question: How do new graduates view their baccalaureate educational experiences in relation to their transition to professional practice? Eight new graduate nurses from a private nursing school in the western United States participated in this study. Participants wrote reflections describing their transition from student role to professional nurse and reviewed these reflections with the researcher at the end of face-to-face interviews. In-depth interviews using open-ended questions were conducted, recorded, and transcribed by the researcher. The results of the interview and reflections were analyzed by the researcher using Colaizzi’s (1978) method to identify the recurring themes and member checking with the participants to help validate the results. Additional validation strategies included writing rich, thick descriptions; triangulation using interviews, reflections, and field notes; clarification of researcher bias; and peer debriefing. Reliability was enhanced by the researcher using a quality digital audiotape recorder, transcribing the interviews, and utilizing an audit trail during data collection and analysis. Five themes were identified in this study: (a) figuring it out, (b) the learning process, (c) influential people, (d) where you practice matters, and (e) questioning preparation. When describing their transition experiences and retention in both their reflections and interviews, the participants identified how essential their nursing education experiences were in laying the foundation for building their professional practice. This study provided insight into transition and retention experiences as it is the only qualitative study that investigated the entire educational experience and utilized open-ended interviews and reflections. The theory of transition was used to inform the study. The participants’ journeys from student role to professional nurse were unique because their educational and new graduate orientation experiences varied but, ultimately, each participant referenced education in the interview and reflection. The interviews took place in cafés and coffee shops per participants’ request and participants identified issues supporting working night shifts as a new graduate nurse. Results supported the appropriateness of using Meleis’ (2010) theory of transition to provide insight into baccalaureate nursing students’ transition from a student role to professional nurse. Findings from the study provided the rationale for recommendations for nurse educators that included retaining or implementing precepted practicum experiences, retaining or enhancing high quality clinical placements, addressing incivility on nursing units to support both students and staff nurses, supporting and educating preceptors in the clinical setting, providing opportunities for nursing students to care for critically ill or complex patients, providing opportunities for preceptors and clinical faculty to allow students and new graduate nurses to become more independent in providing patient care while continuing to be a resource to insure patient safety, and supporting nurses of all generations in their educational and work place needs to encourage retention. Students take a "leap of faith" when starting a nursing program and entering practice. They rely on nursing education to provide the necessary foundational knowledge and experiences to support their transition from a student role to professional nurse and to support their retention in their first nursing roles as well as the nursing profession. Key Words: transition to practice, retention, phenomenology, transition theory, preparation for practice
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