Nursing Retention – The Findings Of A New Study

A new study into nursing retention is shedding fresh light on the driving factors behind many newly-qualified nurses leaving their first roles post-qualification. The study, set to be completed in June 2020, aims to provide guidance to healthcare employers and educators on how to best help new registered nurses flourish in their first year of work.

Researchers at the University of Hull’s Supporting the Transition and Retention project have been conducting interviews with a range of demographic groups involved with the healthcare industry to determine how junior nurses are currently being supported in their initial nursing posts.

Interviewees will include final year nursing students, around 150 nurses – some newly-qualified having just begun their first clinical job, and others who are several months into their first role – plus higher education leaders and clinical partners.

The study is being conducted over three phases. First, the project leaders will gather information about the transition period for nurses entering the field for the first time. Using the findings collected in phase 1, the group will develop a “transition toolkit” to assist employers in offering tailored support to newly registered nurses. Finally, this ‘best practice’ model will be tested on Hull nursing students, who will take the toolkit into their first jobs to see how they fare in situ.

Thus far, the study has highlighted several challenges that nurses face in the first year of work, which can affect their probability of retention in the initial position and also in the career in general. As principal investigator Dr. Jane Wray, from the University’s School of Health and Social Work told Nursing Times: “this first year is critical to whether they continue with not just their first post but their whole nursing career.”

Nursing retention: the findings

Although the study is still in progress, the team have already projected several conclusions:

Supporting education-to-workplace transitions

One of the most pressing issues brought to light by the survey is the importance of the initial transition from student to employee. Dr. Wray comments:

“One of the key findings is that nurses can struggle in the transition from a degree course to the world of work. Employers should think about offering the equivalent of mentoring in the first few months, referring to what are often called preceptorships.”

This could involve mentoring, peer support or group support systems, but the overriding message is that newly-qualified nurses must be better assisted in the first year of work in order to improve nursing retention in UK healthcare settings. Whilst some healthcare institutions do provide an induction period to new employees, this is not yet a consistent across the board, and to address the dip in nursing retention, this must be improved.

Educating in autonomy

Another main challenge that nurses face is dealing with the new levels of autonomy and accountability that is involved with working as a practising nurse. As Dr. Wray points out, student nurses often don’t get sufficient experience in this important element of the job, and so are underprepared for the responsibility of making decisions about patient care whilst under pressure.

Dr. Bray says,

“It takes time to be confident and competent in that decision making and the NHS environment can be very challenging. Newly qualified nurses still need support to settle into that role.”

There are several ways in which nurses could be better prepared for this aspect of the job, such as more extensive roleplay-based examinations, increased responsibility during placement, or a mentoring scheme where new nurses can consult a senior member of staff to confirm their decisions in the first month of work.

Choosing the right nursing job

The study also suggests that nursing retention could be improved simply by refining the recruitment process so that nurses enter jobs they are better suited for. According to the study, nurses should be encouraged to be more proactive in finding the right position for them, asking prospective employers questions to find out about exactly what the role involves, what the workplace atmosphere is like and the induction support they offer.

Dr. Wray claims that key to job satisfaction is learning to ask the right questions at the interview and induction stage. These queries could be about mentoring or mandatory training on the job, for example.

Universities are central agents in fostering this engaged attitude among newly-qualified nurses at the recruitment stage. Colleges should offer more support with career planning, from conducting practise interviews to giving advice on which clinical areas each nurse would be most suitable for at entry level.

This may also include prompting new nurses to consider which working arrangements best suit their lifestyle – not all nurses will prosper in a busy city hospital on shift, some will prefer the health and career benefits of working as an out-of-hours practitioner or bank staff.

To find out more about the range of flexible nursing jobs we offer to nurses, contact us today on 03000 243 333.