Sense of Belonging Vital for New Graduate Nurses

Sense of Belonging Vital for New Graduate Nurses

sense of belonging vital for new graduate nurses
A new research report published this month by NMIT Bachelor of Nursing Year 1 coordinator Kiri Hunter, reveals that nurse identities are heavily influenced by organisational pressures and the role-modelling practices of experienced nurses in a clinical practice environment.

The report Role-modelling and the Hidden Curriculum: New Graduate Nurses’ Professional Socialisation published with the Journal of Clinical Nursing(external link) in the USA and co-authored by Dr Catherine Cook from Massey University provides evidence of workplace stress for new graduates due to conflict from other registered nurses.

“In nursing theory, we say this is how it should be done, but when you get into practice you’ll see registered nurses do it other ways, and for students this challenges their moral and ethical ideals,” says Kiri who is also Māori Nursing student support coordinator at NMIT.

“The positive thing is that our students do have a good moral base, but we need to continue educating students to have realistic expectations to minimise role conflict between professional ideals and role stress.”

Kiri’s research focussed on professional socialisation - who new graduates are being influenced by and the impact this has on their ability to do their job. Her findings suggest a dissonance between expectations and experience.

“Learning doesn’t start and end in the classroom. It’s lifelong learning. Yet some of the attitudes our new graduates are faced with from experienced nurses is ‘Don’t you know that, didn’t they teach you that’. There is still quite a hierarchy that new graduate nurses are having to integrate into. It needs to change.”

Over a period of 12 months in 2015, Kiri conducted five, face to face, semi-structured interviews with new graduate nurses who achieved their degree at educational institutions across New Zealand. She looked for themes and similarities in their experiences. The participants were all female, between 21 and 24 years of age, and identified as NZ European.

Three main themes stood out:

1. The challenge of entering the clinical practice environment
2. Balancing workloads and ethical decision-making
3. The complexities of teamwork in the practice environment

“My final theme was about belonging to a wolf pack, in a good sense, and how important it is when [new graduate nurses] do have a sense of belonging. When the chips are low, they know that other registered nurses will back them up.”

Among the NMIT researchers’ findings:

  • New graduates have very clear ideas of what’s moral, professional and holistic. 
  • New graduates had to develop strategies to manage their way around different role modelled behaviour. 
  • New graduates might see some unethical behaviours within a workplace culture, but find it easier to give up their own values to fit in. 
  • Lack of concern for new graduates chips away at their self confidence. 
  • New graduates appreciate it when experienced nurses are honest and guide them, but the delivery is important. 
  • Experienced nurses in clinical practice also need to manage expectations. 

“Many spoke of the need to develop strategies just to get through the shift. ‘Who do I go to to ask? I’m not going to go to that nurse there because I know she thinks I’m an idiot. She clearly hasn’t got time and everyone says that’s just her.’

“It’s about personalities and teamwork. Many new graduates find they’re having to go down to another ward to ask an approachable person a question.

“In saying all of this, new graduates transform and mature greatly. You learn from good role models and not so good. Nurses in general are pretty good at saying ‘Actually I don’t want to be like that nurse’. But in a way, to see some behaviours, like I said, it can affect some people’s morale.”

Kiri, who is of Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne and Ngāti Maniapoto lineage, plans to conduct further research into this topic with a focus on Māori new graduate nurses.

“A lot of Māori nurses are having to leave their identity at home when they go into clinical practice,” she says.

The full report can be downloaded here(external link).

Contact Kiri by email at: if you would like to learn more or find out more about our Bachelor of Nursing programme.

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