From student to graduate: longitudinal changes in the qualities of nurses

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Abstract

Aims.

To examine the development of perceived qualities of nursing from student to graduate nurse over time.

Background.

Researchers continue to explore student nurse and new graduate nurse attrition, particularly in the light of a looming crisis in nursing recruitment and retention. Qualities of nurses represent the job fit of nursing from student to graduate years.

Design.

A prospective longitudinal design with a convenience sample was used for this study.

Methods.

Data were collected annually from 2009–2012 through the completion of a short on-line survey. The sample size of undergraduate nurses in year 1 was 676, with 527 in year 2, 339 in year 3 and 190 in year 4. Only 136 participants completed the survey each year forming the complete data set for analysis.

Results/findings.

Most qualities of nursing differed significantly across time with the qualities of Caring, Empathetic, Knowledge and Respectful demonstrating strong changes. Most declines in scores occurred on graduation. Caring, the central tenet of nursing increased during the student years and declined slightly on graduation.

Conclusion.

This unique longitudinal study of Australian nurses suggests that the clinical experience and theoretical grounding provided in our University programs, has resulted in an increasing cumulative effect in the third year supporting most qualities of nurses/nursing understood in year 1, that is, the career fit to perceptions, has been achieved. The decline in the 1st year of graduation, where the concept of workplace misfit is occurring, is where further nurse graduate support is urgently required.

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