Blog » From Shaky to Self-Assured, How New Nurse Grads Benefit from Onboarding

From Shaky to Self-Assured, How New Nurse Grads Benefit from Onboarding

Created May 14 2014, 08:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • new nurse grads
  • onboarding
  • nursing

Thursday, May 15, 2014
How New Nurse Grads Benefit from Onboarding

Perhaps at no time is the transition to a new job more vulnerable than when a new nurse grad takes his or her first position. Entering a new career with seemingly all-of-a-sudden clinical responsibilities and an unfamiliar work culture with its own set of social and professional rules is a double whammy that can be a challenge for even the most confident grad.

“It felt like one of those horror movies, where the length of the parking lot/sidewalk/hallway was endless. Like I was walking to my doom. I was terrified because I knew I didn't know anything,” recalled one nurse. “The extremes in emotion tend to sear themselves into your brain, making them impossible to forget.”

Bring back any memories?

Empowering through Onboarding

While a certain amount of angst is normal and arguably even a healthy first-day feeling, hospitals can encourage and empower new grads by effectively onboarding them from the get-go. An oft-used business management term, “onboarding” is orientation-plus. In addition to showing employees the lay of the land, onboarding invests new hires emotionally into the hospital’s mission, values and staff.

“The onboarding process is crucial for new graduate nurses who face an enormous change process as they transition from student nurse to independent RNs,” explains HealthLeaders Media. The article then goes on to specify four phases of the reality shock new nurse grads typically experience after being hired:

  • The honeymoon phase: “I got a job! I’m an employed RN!”
  • The shock phase: “I can’t do this. The patients, the work, the disrespect—it’s all just too much.”
  • The recovery phase: “Actually, I can do this. It’s not easy and it’s not perfect, but I am practicing nursing. I am getting by.”
  • The resolution phase: “I finally feel comfortable here. I’ve really learned from my colleagues’ (positive/harmful) example and I’ve picked up their traits. I am one of them now. I belong.”

Onboarding supports new hires through every step of the process and aims to ensure they make it to the resolution phase, which can take months. Once there, onboarded nurses are more likely to adopt a positive outlook aligned with the hospital’s mission and values.

In short, onboarding helps new grads start off their career on the right foot.

Four Strategies for Success

To successfully onboard a new nurse grad into your hospital, consider these four steps.

  • Welcome them. From the moment they are hired, roll out the red carpet. Send an email or letter letting the nurse know you’re looking forward to working together. One hospital invites the new hire in to meet future nurse colleagues and follows-up with a welcome card signed by the nursing team. The goal is to create a genuine emotional connection as early as possible and to help the new nurse feel connected from the start. 
  • Include them. On Day 1, escort new hires to their uncluttered, ready-to-go personal work area, and then provide a tour as well as introductions to all available coworkers. Also, take newcomers out to lunch to give them the opportunity to mesh with colleagues away from the stress of the unit.
  • Instruct them. Tell them everything they need to know, such as the hospital’s mission and vision as well as their job responsibilities, priorities, and goals. Be sure to include unspoken rules about the workplace culture. Do people communicate primarily by email or phone? How do nurses impact patient care decisions? Are “optional” meetings truly optional?
  • Mentor them. Assign new nurses a mentor. Mentors should be experienced and successfully onboarded themselves. Make sure mentors are accessible and willing to help new hires when needed. Also, schedule regular meetings between the mentor and new nurse to allow for non-urgent needs to be discussed. This relationship should continue for months as the new nurse adjusts to professional practice and the new workplace.

Onboarding is an investment, no doubt, but one that will hopefully pay off in shaky new nurses transforming into confident, engaged nursing professionals.

Need an evidence-based online resource that will quickly allow you to streamline orientation of new grads to ensure clinical competency?  The Lippincott Professional Development Toolkit will be releasing in Q4 2015.  Stay tuned to for further information, coming soon! 

For more information on how academic educators and healthcare institutions can work together to prepare tomorrow's nursing workforce while improving retention and patient care, click here to download our FREE White Paper entitled "New Nurse Preparedness: Perceptions From School and Practice."