The Lived Experience of Graduate Nurses with Longevity in Their First Job: A Transcendental Phenomenological Study



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Background: Without including the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare jobs, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for at least 200,000 new RNs per year in the next six years. The shortage is further impacted by the fact that 60% of graduate nurses leave their first job in the first year. Most research and retention improvements have been focused on decreasing turnover in the first-year time frame. However, by year two, the turnover rate is eighty percent. This turnover has a significant effect on the nurse, the organization, and the patients. Nurses who change jobs early in their careers do not progress as quickly from novice to expert. Retaining graduate nurses longer than two years improves the nurse's skill, improves quality care, and decreases costs. There is minimal research on the experiences of graduate nurses beyond the first year of practice. Purpose: This study aimed to explore the lived experiences of graduate nurses who stayed in their unit as a nurse longer than two years of employment and identify themes related to longevity. Methods: This transcendental phenomenological study was performed at a large community hospital with a robust graduate nurse program. Purposeful sampling was used to identify participants. In-depth personal interviews were conducted, and the data was analyzed using Moustakas’s (1994) modification of Van Kaam’s Method of Analysis of Phenomenological Data. Results: The themes from this study were “confidence boosters,” “growth,” “challenges,” “encouragement,” “support,” and “continuous learning.” Graduate nurses staying longer than two years in a first job described an environment of continual learning with the support of peers, leaders, and family. Graduate nurses who stayed expressed a sense of loyalty and felt they had invested themselves in the organization. They thought they were in an environment where they could continue learning and growing, and there was still more to learn. The graduate nurse program provided support through the transition in the first year. In the second year, the graduate nurses felt more confident but still felt there was a lot to be learned, and their success was based on the support they found. Conclusion: Graduate nurses encounter challenges, growth, and learning in their first two years of practice. A supportive environment of peers, leaders, and family helps the graduate nurse progress from beginner to competent. A strong nurse residency program provides this support, as evidenced by previous research and this study. At the end of the graduate nurse program, nurses who found mentors and supporters to continue to assist in their growth stayed longer than two years. There is an opportunity to increase the longevity of graduate nurses in their first job by formalizing a continued growth track beyond the graduate nurse residency to further support the nurse from competent to experienced. During the second year of practice, the graduate nurse is ready to become more involved in the social organization of the hospital since they have gained those basic competency skills.



Graduate nurse, Nurse residency, Longevity, Retention, Capstone