New-to-practice nurses are perhaps the fastest growing nursing workforce group in many healthcare organizations, and we know that their success is paramount to strengthening the workforce and profession of nursing for the future. To understand how nurse leaders can support the transition of nurses from students to professional practice, it is helpful to understand the unique needs of this demographic and the current research available to guide us.

Be Mindful of Imposter Syndrome

Recent graduates of nursing programs have a more difficult first year in the workforce because of a dependence on remote and simulation learning during the pandemic. For many students, the result is a sense of being unprepared to enter an environment where they believe everyone—administration, managers, preceptors and patients—expects them to know everything. This is the prime time for imposter syndrome to set in.

Imposter syndrome leaves new-to-practice nurses with a sense of intellectual phoniness and inability to internalize success. It’s often associated with new roles and responsibilities, challenging tasks and the pressure to demonstrate confidence. A recent scoping review indicated that imposter syndrome is not only prevalent in the transition-to-practice period, but that it can be associated with burnout early in the career of new nurses.

What can nurse leaders do to counter the effects of imposter syndrome in new-to-practice nurses?

  • Focus on creating a work environment that is supportive and reassuring to discourage feelings of inadequacy.
  • Incorporate social support programs—such as mentorships—to encourage belonging.
  • Assign new-to-practice nurses realistic tasks within their capabilities.
  • Support new nurses in independently performing skills with which they are comfortable.
  • Encourage a culture of curiosity and not judgement.

Choose Nurse Mentors Wisely

It may also be helpful for nurse leaders to examine existing programs that are in place for new-to-practice nurses, as well as the team members who are leading these programs. A recent study found that leaders directly involved with transition to practice programs had considerable impact on the participants and that the effect could be positive or negative, depending on the characteristics of the leader.

How are you positioning talent in your transition to practice program: What are the traits they possess, how are they mentored and how are they evaluated?

  • Evidence indicates that leaders within new-to-practice programs should not only be clinically strong, but also have highly developed communication and interpersonal skills that create a welcoming and supportive environment.
  • Additionally, program leaders should be able to influence culture across the organization to foster a positive environment for the new-to-practice nurse.
  • Negative experiences with unit-based team members were found to be the main contributor to lack of confidence, dissatisfaction and a desire for the new-to-practice nurse to leave the unit or organization.

Use a Holistic Approach

Closing out this research roundup is a study that supports the current trends being seen in new-to-practice programs and research. This Delphi study explored current models used in transition-to-practice programs, like Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory, and identified that these models do not include the effects of the world outside the hospital and the corresponding impact they may have on the transition.

Exploring the connection of relationships, community and society gained consensus among experts as important factors in life and, therefore, in transition to professional practice for new nurses. This supports the idea that to promote success, nurse leaders must consider nurses’ holistic wellbeing.

How can nurse leaders support new-to-practice nurses in a holistic way?

  • As previously stated, create the best possible work environment within the organization.
  • Consider the addition of elements that address external factors influencing the new-to-practice nurse, such as advice on how to talk to family and friends about what they experience at work, managing finances and addressing life changes that commonly happen during the transition-to-practice period.

Support Your Nursing Team

Nurses are socially contracted to provide holistic care to patients, who deserve dignity, respect and compassion. New-to-practice nurses—like all nurses—are in need of holistic care from their leaders. Recognizing some of the transition to practice challenges in nursing and utilizing potential solutions provided in this research roundup may be helpful as organizations and nurse leaders work to foster healthy and resilient caregivers who will enjoy long, rewarding nursing careers!

Edwards-Maddox, S. (2023). Burnout and impostor phenomenon in nursing and newly licensed registered nurses: A scoping review. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 32, 653–665.

Gilroy, H., Douglas, L., Short, Y., & Jarrard, V. (2023). A socioecological model of transition to nursing practice. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 39(3), 170–175.

Kiger, C. L., Draucker, C. B., & Otte, J. L. (2022). The attributes and influence of individuals associated with newly licensed registered nurses in Nurse Residency Programs. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 39(3), 143–149.