Expert spotlight: Encouraging new graduate nurse development

Nurse Leader Insider, July 27, 2009

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This week, expert Judith "Ski" Lower, RN, MSN, CCRN, CNRN alumnus, independent lecturer and consultant, shares some ideas to support the educational growth of new grads.

Q: Most of my new graduate nurses are taking on permanent evening shifts at my facility, but I'd prefer to have a mix of experienced and new nurses working together to foster learning opportunities for them. Should I encourage them to avoid working permanent nights?

A: Many Generation X nurses (born 1965-1980)—and some Ys (born 1981-2006)—gravitate to permanent night shifts for three reasons: They find there is too much going on during the day shift and it's too stressful and tiring to keep up; the highest salaries and biggest bonuses are offered for night shifts; and their friends are working permanent nights. The downside of having young nurses work permanent nights is that often they do not have access to the educational opportunities offered during the day, whether through formal teaching or through interaction with seasoned nurses and physicians. Some young nurses become frustrated that they are no longer learning and growing, which causes them to move on.

Managers can encourage new graduates not to choose permanent nights, but the reality is that many of them have large student loans to pay off and are planning to buy their first house or get married. They need extra money earned by working night shifts for their life goals.

To counter this problem, consider assigning a new nurse a seasoned mentor on the night shift who can ensure continued learning opportunities. Make sure that unit educators or clinical nurse specialists are available some evenings so that they may provide oversight and mentoring. Having them available for the first four hours of the night shift will allow continuing educational and mentoring opportunities.

Another option is to suggest that younger nurses work one week of day shifts every six weeks to give them the opportunity to participate in career development opportunities. Younger nurses will be more likely to accept this option if there isn't any penalty to any night shift bonus that they receive.

Editor's note: Do you have a question for our experts? Email your queries to Editor Keri Mucci at and see your name in print next week! In the meantime, head over to our Web site and view a growing collection of advice from our experts.


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