ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing



First Advisor

Donelle Barnes


A widely acknowledged transition to practice gap exists for nursing students who have recently graduated and are starting their first job as a registered nurse (RN). In an attempt to bridge this gap, new graduate nurses (NGNs) working in acute care hospitals are usually offered additional training in unit-specific knowledge and skills, along with time working with a unit-based preceptor. Hospital-based training programs are typically between two and six months in length, but the transition to becoming a competent RN with experience is estimated to take between 12 to 18 months (Duchscher, 2008). NGNs have much to learn and they perceive the first year of practice to be very stressful. As a consequence, NGN turnover rates by the end of the first year are conservatively estimated between 12% and 25% (Spector et al., 2015). At six months of experience, NGNs report the highest levels of stress and lowest level of job satisfaction (Spector et al., 2015). However, no qualitative studies have been published that focus on the lived experience of NGNs as they are experiencing it during this period. The purpose of this study was to use phenomenology to explore the lived experience of NGNs as they transitioned to professional practice during their sixth to ninth month of experience. Fifteen NGNs were interviewed and their responses were analyzed for reoccurring codes and themes. Twelve themes emerged from the data and were grouped into four clusters: overwhelmed, relationships, finding my flow, and being a good nurse. At this stage in their transition, NGNs struggled with knowledge insecurity and effective time management. They felt overwhelmed and verbalized that being stressed all the time is a new normal that they must adjust to. NGNs in this study understood that creating and maintaining workplace relationships was necessary, as they still had questions and needed help from seasoned nurses. These relationships can be complicated because some nurses with experience were critical of NGNs. As a result, NGNs in this study verbalized uncertainty about asking for help for fear that experienced nurses would think they couldn’t manage the responsibilities of being a nurse. At this stage, NGNs want to be a good nurse and give good care to their patients, but need more support from colleagues, hospital-based educators, and managers. The themes found in this study were compared to the concepts found in Duchscher’s stages of transition theory. Limitations of the study were discussed along with implications for nursing practice and directions for future research.


Qualitative Research, Phenomenology, New Graduate Nurses, Transition to Practice, Turnover, 6 to 9 months experience


Medicine and Health Sciences | Nursing


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Included in

Nursing Commons