Giving New Nurse Graduates Tips for Retention

Giving New Nurse Graduates Tips for RetentionNurse leaders are often challenged with retaining quality nursing staff. In fact, national turnover rates are on the rise. In 2015 the bedside RN turnover rate increased to, 16.4%, up from 11.2% in 2011 (2015 National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report). It’s not just experienced nurses that are leaving their roles.

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS published findings from The RN Work Project, a 10-year panel study funded by Robert Wood Johnson, in a 2014 article entitled, ‘Nurse Turnover: The Revolving Door in Nursing‘. The study found the 1-year turnover rate among all newly licensed RNs was 17.5%, and the 2-year turnover rate was 33.5%. Similarly, in 2007, Kovner and colleagues found that 13% of newly licensed RNs had changed principal jobs after one year, and 37% reported that they felt ready to change jobs (American Journal of Nursing).

While many nurses can probably list the reasons that nurses leave their roles (e.g. insufficient staffing, increased stress, decreased job satisfaction, unhealthy work environments) there can be other factors that come into play as a new graduate nurse considers a job change. Take for example, the fact that the brand new nurse could have difficulty finding and landing a new job. When that occurs, what’s likely to happen? The graduate often will take any nursing job that they are offered- even if it is not an ideal fit.

So who’s responsibility is it to reduce nursing turnover? And how can we retain more new graduate nurses?

Organizations have definitely taken a successful stab at this problem with the institution of nurse residency programs. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) indicated 95.6% retention for residents involved in Nurse Residency Programs, which is a huge improvement from the national average 30% turnover rate. So- point noted. Create and offer residency programs for graduate nurses. But what else? What about the individual nurse themselves?

I’d like to refer back to a point brought up by Stokowski, referring to this notion that “newly licensed nurses who aren’t able to land those sought-after hospital jobs will continue to take whatever jobs they can find to acquire the experience needed to be hired by the hospital”. Can we give our new graduate nurses personal empowerment tips that they can use to increase their own chances of retention? I’d like to think so.

[Tweet “Here Are 3 Strategies New Nurse Graduates Can Use to Impact Their Chances of Retention”]

  1. Giving New Nurse Graduates Tips for RetentionDo Your Research to Find a Great Fit. This strategy includes a multi-pronged approach. First off, find support. Whether it be through an academic adviser, a business coach, or a mentor/peer group… you need support. This will help you brainstorm ideas as you search for a nursing role. Secondly, starting early with a professional network is key. The more people you know, the better. As you can tap into these nursing colleagues for referrals or job opportunities. Finally, research jobs that are out there. Don’t settle just because you have an offer. And the old myth related to requiring experience in a hospital before doing what you really want to do- that’s nonsense. In today’s world of healthcare reform, job possibilities are endless. As care moves out of the hospital and into the community, nurses are needed in a wide array of environments. Take Carmen Saunders for example. As a guest on the Your Next Shift podcast, Carmen shared ways to find and access jobs outside of the conventional hospital system. Figure out what you want to do and go for it!
  2. Balance Head with Heart in Your Decision. The second strategy blends the art with the science of nursing. Sure, doing your research, keeping organized notes, weighing the pros and cons, and taking action are all necessary aspects of getting a nursing job. Another crucial piece is often overlooked. This involves taking time to pause and really feel your ideal role. I use a three-step process that helps me take what I don’t want and turn it into what I do want. After I am crystal clear on my desired job, I use visualization mixed with massive action to reach my goals. The same can be done as we navigate through the application, interview, and hiring process. Balance the head decisions with what the heart wants. Doing this will help you find the job of your dreams!
  3. Leverage & Brand Your Strengths. We think about nursing and there is so much room. It’s expansive, even. Specialty upon specialty. Certifications galore. Then the levels… gosh, we can stay at the bedside, move to management, become a nursing leader, or enter into academia. The options are endless. Which is really freaking cool when we think about each nurse as a unique individual. Think about you- what are your strengths? Talents? Abilities? What experiences have you had that make you uniquely you? The beauty of us all being individuals is that we can find the job that is our perfect fit. Tap into your assets. Showcase these when you show up (whether it be on paper or in-person). It’s OK- even necessary- to toot your own horn. As Brittney Wilson likes to say, you are your own brand. You gotta be out there showing up as yourself, enjoying your life, and doing your best work- and guess what? You’ll find that perfect career!

What did we miss? I’d love to hear what tips you would offer to new graduate nurses about finding the ‘dream job’ in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN; Founder of Nursing from WithinAbout the Author: As a keynote speaker, bestselling author and virtual conference host, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. During the National Nurse’s Week online conference, ‘The Art of Nursing‘, Elizabeth supports nurses in achieving professional goals of continued learning and development. Click here to find out more about how The Art of Nursing appreciates and celebrates our profession in a meaningful way.



  1. I agree much with the article. Even tho I’m only a LPN. I have done over the years orientation of new grads. The point that I see that is missing is a lack of welcome aboard by fellow nures. The lack of welcome to the club is bad. We as old nures should welcome them. Not leave them out there on their own.

    1. Hi Fred,

      Thank you for coming by and taking the time to read the blog and share your comment. Before I respond, I want to stop you dead in your tracks (LOL). I wouldn’t say ‘only a LPN’. You ARE a LPN. And that is AMAZING!! Let’s be mindful of our language and how we can lift ourselves up and appreciate the professional journey so far.

      OK- that being said… it’s awesome to hear your insights. I agree with you- we need to welcome our new nurses aboard to our teams. Sure we do the ‘official’ orientation, but what about bringing them into the group? Welcome them to the team. Great points!!

      Thanks for your comment. Enjoy the day,

  2. Wish I would have had this info when I was a newbie nurse. I liked the section about Leveraging your Strengths. Getting new nurses to focus on what they really want to do based on their own innate gifts, may even lead them to “out of the box’ areas of nursing, even to nurse entrepreneurship. Of course for most, this takes time to get clarity…and for others, they just “know” where their calling is. Being a nurse offers ‘infinite possibilities.’

  3. I wish someone would have told me this 37 years ago! Loved it all but so happy to see the section on leverage and branding of strengths. Branding and new nursing grad aren’t two topics seen together. I’m going to share with my new grad niece! 🙂

    1. Interesting that you shared similar comments to Annette’s, Carmen. It is such a great idea to get people thinking about their strengths, passions, and desires early on. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  4. It was almost 46 years ago I found my self in this situation. I remember my first Psych Nurse interview at Boston city and my friend and I were applying to work with substance abuse and was told we did not have experience. My friend’s response was “How do we get experience if no one will hire us?” So they hired us for the Psych unit to get experience which started in September. So in the summer we took a job for 3 months At Meriam Hospital, she worked on the med surg unit and I worked on the Surg unit night shift, and when we left they gave us high recommendation letters.We knew what we wanted to do and pushed for it. Great Article with great suggestions

  5. You youngsters certainly have more opportunity for navel gazing than I ever did. Perhaps it was my lack of education – I was trained, not educated. The only thing I ever wanted to do as a nurse was to be a scrub nurse and that’s exactly what I did. When you are frequently on call for trauma cases and seeing people at their worst, you have little opportunity for insights, branding or leveraging. It is refreshing to see how much nursing has changed even though it’s beyond my comprehension.

    1. You had me laughing! Thanks for your honest and heartfelt comments. It true that nursing has come a long way. Though, many of the beautiful things in the profession remain in tact. Thanks for coming by and sharing your comment. I appreciate your perspective very much.

  6. Where were you when I needed you?!!! Many years ago, nurses hit the floor “running” with little attention to these issues. We didn’t now the possibilities out there! Thanks for helping to be a change agent for this generation of nurses.

  7. Same lament from this 30 year veteran! Nursing school is just the beginning. Very hopeful for the future of nursing and investment in patient care!

  8. Love your suggestions and am sharing with all my friends…young and older…who are new to nursing! I was fortunate to mentor 3 student nurses this semester. Part of what I did was arrange clinical time with a wide variety of nurse specialties….outside of the acute care setting. Needless to say, their eyes were opened to the possibilities. One essential part of their time with me was to build a professional profile on LinkedIn. Possibly as early career nurses they have limited experience, but this gives them a foundation for building their brand!

    1. Wow, what a way to take them out of their local spaces. I love that idea. Thanks for sharing this tip, Carol!

  9. Good article Elizabeth with some important tips we can all use.

    I am distressed in the post from Fred where he noted that he was not welcomed into his new job. What is wrong with us….Why don’t we celebrate when new nurses come to our unit. They bring new ideas, an extra pair of hands and another person to share the case load.

    I was at a conference last week where one of the speakers ended their session with the hope that we can find a way to put the joy back in our work. Not sure how we lost it, but despite the disruption taking place in every sector of the healthcare system we have to find a way to bring the joy back to our work and that includes welcoming new nurses.

    1. Great points, Anne. Thank you for sharing and being one who does bring joy into nursing.

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