The Transition From Student to Nurse

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that more registered nurses are required in the United States. This isn’t due to a lack of candidates, instead, we need to train more nurses to meet the increasing demands of an aging society. It is also clear, after the recent COVID-19 pandemic, that medical professionals are quite literally on the frontlines of public health and safety and must be encouraged to flourish and protected wherever possible.

After nurses are qualified and on the job, employers must ensure they receive an adequate salary, good working conditions, professional support, post-registration access to education and training and career opportunities. In addition, supporting nurses transitioning from being students to registered nurses is essential to caring for them.

After passing their license exam, many newly qualified nurses feel a sense of relief. This feeling of relief is quickly followed by the next chapter, which is securing one’s first employment and then beginning transitioning from a newly licensed nurse to a registered one. This change, analogous to a rite of passage, can be smooth for some students, but can be daunting for others. Whichever category you fall into, there are numerous tips you may employ to ease your shift from a student to a registered nurse.

This article will offer expert advice on transitioning into a nursing position and give examples of a transition within a healthcare setting.

We spoke to a newly qualified nurse, and this is what they had to say. “During the final few weeks of my last placement as a nursing student, I felt at ease in my work, like a valuable member of the team and I became increasingly worried about the transition from the relatively sheltered environment of university, to the ‘real world’. Although I knew this was a normal feeling and that I had lots of people in my life to support me, I couldn’t help but be anxious.

It became more serious as the final months and weeks of my course came to an end, I found myself dreading what was to come, not because I didn’t want to be a nurse, but because I had no idea what to expect and where my next life choices would take me. What can I expect from my new team? What can I expect from the patients? All of these were the ideas flying through my head.’

It’s clear that getting this transitional period right is imperative. We spoke to industry experts, and this is the advice they had to offer:

Acknowledge your feelings

Noticing and accepting your feelings of uncertainty is a vital first step in traversing any transitional period and it is no different in this instance. It is ok to feel worried or unsure and is actually a pretty reasonable response to uncertainty. It is what we do with these feelings that counts.

Accepting and working through these emotions and thoughts are often what make transitional phases the greatest periods of growth and self-discovery in our lives. From these inner-struggles, we learn what our values and tastes are and we learn how to overcome challenges and hardship. So if you find yourself feeling worried, embrace it and don’t give up, engaging with these emotions and working through them is vital life experience.

Learn about yourself


We all have personality traits and job preferences that, depending on the situation and context, will work for or against us. Consider your best personality qualities and work preferences to gain valuable insight. A reputable personality evaluation will help you get a head start on detecting prospective workplace issues and problem-solving management tactics.

Introverts, for example, frequently require downtime to recharge after a busy period of interaction with patients or coworkers. Taking your lunch break away from a noisy lunchroom, either outside or in a quiet area, alone or with one or two other coworkers, may allow you to refuel and reset for the afternoon.

Set realistic goals

It might be helpful, while you are still at the beginning of your transition, to set yourself some goals and target for the coming months, in order to give yourself direction and something to aim for. College life is highly structured into terms, modules, placements, assessment periods and so on and it can be destabilizing when you leave this environment and realize that you are responsible for organizing your own time, perhaps for the first time in your adult life.

These goals should be realistic and achievable and ideally, work up in stages. If your dream is to be a family nurse practitioner, you might first set yourself the goal of researching interview processes for these roles, and then the next goal could be to set aside time to search for jobs and so on.

This way you will feel more in control of the direction your life is taking and have a clearer idea of what you want to do, when and how. This will all help to reduce any stress or anxiety you might be feeling and contribute to your mental wellbeing.

Form an emotional support network


It is important that you have people around you that you can turn to if you need it. This could be anyone you feel comfortable with and can trust, whether that is a friend or family member. It is ok to ask for support and although asking for help might feel frightening for some, most people will agree that once you have, you feel much better! Sometimes, all we need is a chat and a hug from someone we love to make our worries melt away.

It is also important to not underestimate the importance of maintaining contact with people from your course, as these connections are valuable in so many ways. For starters, these people will all be going through a similar experience to you and hearing their stories and advice will help you enormously as you adjust to the life of a graduate. They will also be useful professional contacts to keep throughout your career, as sources of information about jobs, opportunities, and different nursing practices that you could incorporate into your own.

Building a support network within your new workplace is also important

As a nursing student, you are exposed to various clinical situations. You are not given the opportunity to build bonds with nurses on the floor. Yet, as a nurse, you will work with the same folks daily. As a result, you must seek opportunities to create a good rapport with your coworkers. For example, if you see another nurse needing assistance, always try to provide a helping hand and be cheerful and a team member. This leaves a positive impression on your coworkers, increasing the likelihood of them assisting you when needed.

Be patient

This applies to others and especially to yourself. It is impossible to comprehend the complexities of nursing in a short amount of time. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t believe you know everything. That’s fine; life is about learning, and you’re not intended to know everything immediately. Instead, learn to say: “I don’t know” and make the effort to remedy your ignorance.

You will not be respected if you claim to know something when everyone involved knows you don’t. Instead, you will be appreciated for expressing “I don’t know” and aggressively seeking knowledge and demonstrating what you have learned and how you used it.

Scheduling adjustments

You usually make your own timetable at university, which gives you flexibility. For example, you could complete all your classes by the afternoon. Alternatively, you might schedule your first class to begin later in the day. When you start working after college, you are usually required to adhere to the hours set by your employer. Stick to a timetable between graduation and finding a job to help you adjust to a new schedule.

Develop the right mindset

The appropriate mindset may be the most essential tool for shifting from being a student to a professional. Skills taught in the classroom may not be as easily transferred to the workplace as students hope. A cheerful attitude might help a student endure when the going gets tough on the job.

Several new concepts will be introduced to new professionals quickly, and many may need help. With time and patience, new professionals will be able to grasp all the new concepts and apply them appropriately by being willing to learn, having a good attitude and maintaining focus. Finally, new professionals and students must be willing to fail. Failure is an unavoidable component of the learning process.

Find a mentor


Having a mentor will be beneficial during your first year on the job. This is someone who can assist you in your professional development and provide advice on problems, among other things. This may be someone at your current job, someone in a position you aspire to one day, an old lecturer, a prior colleague or your boss.

You should have several mentors to assist you in various facets of your work. When seeking a mentor, consider what questions you have about the field. For example, if you choose a mentor in a position you aspire to have, you might ask how they got there.

Keep learning and working hard

You’ve probably learned during your education that if you want to be successful, you can’t expect to be spoon-fed. The same can be said if you want to succeed in the workplace. You will likely be required to learn the responsibilities of your new position quickly. Of course, your new employer will assist you with this.

It is also critical that you commit to aggressively learning and working hard, especially as you settle in and find your footing. You’ve also learned many transferrable abilities at college or university, so put them to good use as you transition into your healthcare setting.

An example of transitioning in healthcare


The above advice is all well and good; however, it’s sometimes best to see an example of a transition to fully appreciate what might be involved. In this example, we will examine the move from working as a registered nurse to a nurse practitioner. You’ve probably thought about advancing your career if you’re a registered nurse. One of the most common options is to become a nurse practitioner. RNs pursue their NP roles for various reasons, including improved autonomy, professional prospects and higher compensation. So, as a registered nurse, how do you become a nurse practitioner?

The first step is identifying which type of nurse practitioner you want to be. If you enjoy working with children and families, you might want to know how to become a family nurse practitioner. On the other hand, if you like the idea of welcoming life to the new world, transitioning to become a neonatal nurse practitioner might be your best option. There are numerous forms of nursing, with a nurse practitioner having more significant experience and a higher level of nursing education than others in the field.

If you wish to strive towards this desirable position, you should learn about the functions and obligations of the profession before enrolling in any nurse practitioner courses. A nurse practitioner is primarily responsible for providing primary and specialized care to patients. Being in this role will give you a mix of caregiving obligations and tasks often performed by physicians. You may wish to consider an online family nurse practitioner program, such as those offered by Texas Women’s University, which allow you arrange your own schedule.

Once you have identified the field you want to work in, it’s time to return to education and gain more qualifications. Following a bachelor’s degree, nurse practitioners must earn a master’s degree in nursing. A master’s program typically takes two years full-time to complete. This curriculum is critical to further developing your skills and knowledge. To obtain a license, you must have a Master of Science in Nursing degree, two years post-registration clinical experience and pass a national certification exam. Once you have completed this, it’s time to find a position, and here’s what you can expect.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are certified professionals providing comprehensive patient care. The finest NPs are empathetic and understanding individuals who appreciate addressing complicated problems and assisting others. NPs provide holistic and preventative treatment and acute and chronic care. The duties of a clinical nurse specialist differ based on their field of practice. A neonatal nurse practitioner, for example, collaborates with neonatologists to care for newborn babies and toddlers. In contrast, a family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner cares for patients of any age who require mental health care.

NPs are healthcare providers who, like physicians, can prescribe medication, examine patients, order diagnostic tests, diagnose ailments and offer therapy. Their experience as practicing nurses gives them a unique perspective on patient care. At the same time, their advanced studies qualify them to take on extra roles usually reserved for physicians. In 25 states, nurse practitioners have full practice authority, which means they are not required to work under the supervision of a doctor. In the remaining states, NPs still have more authority than RNs, but many patient care choices require the approval of a medical doctor.

Bottom line

Transition is defined as a path or movement from one state, circumstance or place to another that has the potential to produce major changes in the lives of individuals and their significant others, with important implications for wellbeing and health. There are various sorts of transitions, including developmental, health-illness, organizational and situational changes, all of which can be influenced by multiple circumstances, including the level of preparation, planning and awareness of the individual. Moving from being a nursing student to a registered nurse appears to be an exciting process, but the route can be challenging.

The shift from student nurse to registered practitioner can be difficult and stressful. Newly qualified nurses (NQNs) frequently experience stress due to becoming accountable for their practice and the transition from being supervised students to independent practitioners. In addition, when NQNs operate in an unfamiliar workplace with a new team of coworkers, the impact of this change in role and function can be accentuated.

These issues combine to cause what is frequently referred to as ‘transition shock’ or the ‘flaky bridge’ in some NQNs. As a result, NQNs’ wellbeing and capacity to practice effectively may suffer. The danger of nurses leaving their jobs, or possibly the profession, is exceptionally high in the first year after graduation.

Keep in mind that you’ve dealt with the uneasy feelings that come with change before, so you’ll adapt swiftly this time. Consider when you first started university: everything in your life changed abruptly, but you immediately settled in, seemingly in the blink of an eye. It’s the same when it comes to adjusting to the changes that come with starting a new job.

You are more flexible than you realize, so take heart as you embark on the next chapter of your life. Remember that these changes are only temporary, and you will rapidly acquire new habits, schedules and rituals and begin to appreciate your new life.