Retention for Graduate Nurses: How Long Will They Last?

January 21st, 2015 by

Young Female NurseI was a May graduate with big dreams. By the time I took the NCLEX in July, my list of job requirements had shrunk considerably. When I finally was hired in October, there was only one thing I wanted out of an employer – that they hire me. I didn’t care what the job was, as long as it needed an RN, and I could get work experience.

And that’s how I started my career in nursing – as a home health nurse flung out into the streets of Atlanta after a preceptorship of two weeks. By month three I was the preceptor. By month six, I was gone.  It was a short but oh-so-memorable stint that got me in the door.

One of the ways the future supply of nurses is projected is by measuring how long a graduate nurse stays at their first job. As anyone who reads the predictions can see, the future looks pretty bleak.

Studies on Nurse Retention

According to a recent study, almost one in five new graduate RNs leave their first nursing job within the first year, and one in three leave within a two year time frame.

There are multiple factors causing this flight. Some factors outlined in this article include heavy workloads, high risk for patient injury, poor scheduling, lack of autonomy, poor workplace relationships and a lack of a reward system. RNs also report lack of quality time with patients as a factor.

Surprisingly, a low salary isn’t the main influence in the new graduate’s decision to stay or go if the work is satisfying.

Depending on a nursing student’s clinical experience and prior work experience, their expectations regarding RN employment are varied. New grads often take any job they are offered, telling themselves “I just have to get my foot in the door. I can do anything for two years, then I can go where I want.” but find themselves miserable, burned out and ready to quit within months, sometimes even weeks.

According to the previously mentioned study, unhappiness peaks at 4-6 months and then again at the end of the second year.

Honestly, the new grads aren’t necessarily just babies who need a good dose of the real world. They made it through nursing school, after all! I remember nursing school.  It was hardest thing I’d ever done in my life up to that point, but I was surrounded by people going through the same thing, learning the same lessons and had professors who were devoted to developing our skills and helping us through.

Support System Needed for New Nurses

It is very clear, however, that healthcare facilities should have a plan in place for the new grads they hire. There is a need for a good support system, clear limits to patient loads, and continued mentoring of the newly minted RNs who want to succeed in this career that they’ve given their lives to.

One study has delineated factors that help with retention of new hires. They include: variety, autonomy, supervisory support, a sense of teamwork among the staff, fair treatment, good relationships between the doctors and nurses, and opportunities for advancement.

Considering the expense of turnover, more facilities are, or should be, putting a better support system in place for new grads.

About the Author:

Sarah Heroman

Sarah Heroman is an RN, BSN who has found her niche as a school nurse in Texas. With almost 20 years of experience, Sarah is still passionate about the nursing field and enjoys mentoring and helping nurses continue to find the joy in their careers. She believes that a good nurse is able to combine the science and the art of nursing and find fulfillment in providing the best care for their patients.

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