In the second part of this series, the discussion will focus on the studies done on the topic of transitioning into practice, and on nurse residency or other similar programs in particular. Newly licensed nurses, whether new graduates or newly licensed to practice in the US following training and practice in another country, are an important and yet vulnerable part of our profession.

Historically, there has been a high turnover rate among these nurses. Recent emphasis on thesignificance of nurse recruitment and retention has resulted in numerous studies which attempt to find ways to make the transition into practice much more positive for the newly licensed nurse, the employer, and ultimately the patients.



Even without extensive formal research, there are several things that we already know from anecdotal information as well as general knowledge of health care and nursing:


  • Newly licensed nurses are often confronted with patients who are sicker and in a more complicated health care system than they used to be.


  • On some units, at least ten percent of the nursing staff is comprised of new nurses.



  • Studies show that new nurses experience the greatest amount of job stress between three to six months after they are hired, which results in increased potential for practice errors.
  • The turnover rate of new nurses is 35 to 60 percent in the first year of practice. It costs an estimated $40,000 to $60,000 to replace each nurse who leaves.

Professional employment and management journals contain studies of the importance of residency programs which have been conducted using prospective data collection, logistic regression analysis, and longitudinal studies. This concept is not unique; many other professions use some type of widely recognized residency, mentorship, etc. programs for newly licensed practitioners, and have done so for years. Why has this not happened to a large extent in nursing? Is it because we historically haven’t been seen as “professionals” whose practice necessitated guidance in transitioning into practice? 

Numerous research studies have validated the importance ofjob satisfaction to nurse retention. A structured transition to practice program for newly licensed nurses would potentially address each of the bulleted statements above. New nurses who feel supported in their practice and who don’t feel that they are being “thrown to the wolves” in their first jobs are more likely to have that job satisfaction.

Although many excellent transition to practice/residency programs do exist for both RNs and LPNs, in some instances the quality and components of the programs vary greatly among employers or are practically non-existent.  A brief orientation to the facility such as the OSHA training and fire safety information doesn’t qualify as a transition program.  It takes much more than that to bridge the gap between education and practice.  In the next installment of this series, we will take a closer look at what the components of an effective program would include.

Nurses, please leave a comment below sharing your thoughts on this topic!

Click here for "Transitioning from Newly Licensed to an Experienced Nurse".

Click here for "Transitioning from Newly Licensed to an Experienced Nurse: Effective Practice Programs, Part 3".