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The Crucial Issue Nurse Educators and Managers Fail to See Eye to Eye On

Created Jun 09 2014, 8:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • nurses
  • Wolters Kluwer survey
  • nursing competency
  • nurse grads
  • nurse educators

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Today more than ever, it’s essential that new nurse grads hit the ground running. Patients are older, sicker, and there are more of them. Meanwhile, medical knowledge and technology is growing at an unprecedented rate. So are nurse responsibilities, which have expanded from traditional nursing care to include assessment, case and information management, disease prevention, health promotion and quality improvement.

Are today’s new nurse grads up to the challenge of the modern healthcare setting?

Yes. Rather, make that, No.

In a handful of studies and surveys over the past 6 years—most recently a 2012 poll conducted by Wolters Kluwer—the answer to that question varies with whom you ask. Nurse educators say, for the most part, their new nurse grads are well prepared for practice, thank you very much. The practicing nurses who oversee and work alongside them? Not so much.

A Disagreement of Staggering Proportions

This gap in perception of new nurse grad competency was initially documented in a study in the Journal of Nursing Administration in November 2008, and again, in the 2010 book Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation.

In the former, the perception gap was staggering: 90% of nurse educators believed new nurse graduates were “fully prepared to provide safe and effective care in the hospital setting” versus just 10.4% of hospital nurse executives. Educating Nurses declared “a significant gap … between today’s nursing practice and the education for that practice.”

The Wolters Kluwer survey conducted a year and a half ago polled 190 professionals in the nursing field (including practicing nurses, nurse managers and hospital administrators) and another 267 in nursing education. Educators were again more enthusiastic than their peers in practice, although the perception gap was somewhat narrower: 50% of nurse educators considered new nurse grads well prepared for their jobs versus 15% of professionals in nursing practice.

Further Difference Over the Details

The 2012 poll uncovered more differences in opinion:

  • 45% of practicing nurses thought recent grads lacked the knowledge and experience necessary to safely perform many basic procedures versus 26% of nurse educators.
  • 61% of practicing nurses thought grads 5 to10 years ago were better prepared for practice than today’s grads versus 32% of nurse educators.
  • 56% of practicing nurses identified inadequate clinical training as a reason today’s nurses are less prepared versus 21% of nurse educators.

The two camps further disagreed on the strengths and weaknesses of new grads. Nearly half of practicing nurses polled identified listening and following instructions as a nurse grad strength; more than two-thirds of nurse educators, however, said it was an area of nurse grad weakness. While nurse educators thought nurse grads offered more critical-thinking ability than practicing nurses, practicing nurses said critical-thinking ability was actually a major weakness among nurse grads.

How to Make Things Better

Differences in perception aside, no one would argue against increasing support for new nurse grads as they transition into practice. Here are two ideas, explained in more detail in the white paper New Nurse Preparedness: Perceptions from School and Practice:

  • Provide the latest evidence-based practice information to practicing nurses at the bedside and to students in their nursing programs.  As patient acuity increases and medical knowledge expands, quality information at the point-of-care is becoming vital to nurse veterans and new grads alike.
  • Allow both students and new nurse grads the opportunity and time to actually practice nursing care. For students, it might look like “playing nurse,” and interacting with all sorts of patients with differing abilities and attitudes as early as the first day of the first semester of nursing school. For nurse grads, it might take the form of a preceptor who is properly trained and equipped to enforce the skills and confidence nurses need to succeed.

What are your views on the competency of today’s new nurse grads? Do you have ideas for how the profession can protect them from transition shock in the workplace? Share your thoughts below.

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