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Concerns over graduate job readiness

New research is exploring the significant conflict that exists between what employers and graduates want from nursing graduates, Linda Belardi reports.

Some employers are concerned Australia’s education system is not producing registered nurses who are workplace ready and have called for a pre-registration year to be introduced.

May El Haddad, a PhD scholar from CQUniversity, said her research has uncovered a significant tension between what employers expect from their graduates and the educational preparation that nursing students receive.

Nursing unit managers (NUMs) report wanting nursing graduates to be able to “hit the ground running”, especially in a climate of limited funding for graduate support, and questioned the value of producing generalist nurses who are able to work in any environment.

Research participants suggested new graduates could be granted “provisional registration” where they are employed in a clinical setting but without the caseload and responsibilities expected of an experienced RN.

El Haddad said current structured “transition to practice” or graduate year programs were not funded adequately to provide enough intensive support to new nurses.

“Novice nurses are given some support but health services are challenged to provide added supernumerary time for new graduates. Graduates are expected to take on the same responsibilities and case load of patients as an experienced nurse,” she told Nursing Review.

“There has to be more discussion and consultation at a higher level between health services in Australia and education providers to look at creative ways of bridging this perceived gap and preparing nurses for the realities of the job.”

El Haddad, who has conducted in-depth interviews with NUMs and bachelor of nursing program co-ordinators, said health services emphasised the importance of new graduates being immersed in the local health setting in order to be successful in the workplace, she said.

The research has reopened the debate about whether nurses should be trained to be specialists or generalists and contribute to a discussion about an internship year for graduate nurses.

Participants said that exposing nurses to multiple nursing contexts and clinical environments appears to be at odds with the highly specialised nature of nursing care, she said.

It is a requirement of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council for RN graduates to be able to work in any clinical environment through exposure to multiple specialties at the undergraduate level.

El Haddad recently presented her findings at a nursing education conference in Perth.

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