Glimpses into the transition world: New graduate nurses' written reflections


  • 1 Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Electronic address: [email protected].
  • 2 Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
  • 3 Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital Trust, United Kingdom.
  • PMID: 29032292
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.nedt.2017.09.022

Background: This study was born out of our reflections as educators responsible for helping new graduate nurses transition into their first year of professional practice through a formal education programme. Finding ourselves wondering about many of the questions the students raised with us, we set about looking more closely at what could be gleaned from the students' experience, captured in their written work over the course of a year.

Objectives: To identify the challenges and learning experiences revealed in reflective assignments written by new graduate nurses undertaking a postgraduate course as part of their transition to registered nurse practice.

Study design, setting and participants: Data consisted of the written work of two cohorts of students who had completed a postgraduate university course as part of their transition to new graduate practice in New Zealand. Fifty four reflective essays completed by twenty seven participating students were collected and their contents analysed thematically.

Results: Five key themes were identified. The students' reflections noted individual attributes - personal and professional strengths and weaknesses; professional behaviour - actions such as engaging help and support, advocating for patients' needs and safety and putting their own feelings aside; situational challenges such as communication difficulties, both systemic and interpersonal, and the pressure of competing demands. Students also identified rewards - results they experienced such as achieving the nursing outcomes they desired, and commented on reflection as a useful tool.

Conclusions: The findings shed light on the experiences of new graduates, and how they fare through this critical phase of career development. Challenges relating to the emotional labour of nursing work are particularly evident. In addition the reflective essay is shown to be a powerful tool for assisting both new graduate nurses and their lecturers to reflect on the learning opportunities inherent in current clinical practice environments.

Keywords: Emotional labour; New graduate nurse; Nursing education; Reflection; Transition to practice.

Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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  • Volume 10, Issue 8
  • Exploring the factors that affect new graduates’ transition from students to health professionals: a systematic integrative review protocol
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  • Eric Nkansah Opoku 1 , 2 ,
  • Lana Van Niekerk 2 ,
  • Lee-Ann Jacobs-Nzuzi Khuabi 2
  • 1 Department of Occupational Therapy , College of Health Sciences; University of Ghana , Accra , Greater Accra Region , Ghana
  • 2 Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences , Stellenbosch University , Cape Town , Western Cape , South Africa
  • Correspondence to Eric Nkansah Opoku; Enopoku{at}

Introduction To become a competent health professional, the nature of new graduates’ transition plays a fundamental role. The systematic integrative review will aim to identify the existing literature pertaining to the barriers during transition, the facilitators and the evidence-based coping strategies that assist new graduate health professionals to successfully transition from students to health professionals.

Methods and analysis The integrative review will be conducted using Whittemore and Knafl’s integrative review methodology. Boolean search terms have been developed in consultation with an experienced librarian, using Medical Subject Heading terms on Medline. The following electronic databases have been chosen to ensure that all relevant literature are captured for this review: PubMed, EBSCOhost (including Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Medline, Academic Search Premier, Health Science: Nursing and Academic Edition), Scopus and Web of Science. A follow-up on the reference list of selected articles will be done to ensure that all relevant literature is included. The Covidence platform will be used to facilitate the process.

Ethics and dissemination Ethical approval is not required for this integrative review since the existing literature will be synthesised. The integrative review will be published in a peer-reviewed journal once all the steps have been completed. The findings will also be presented at international and national conferences to ensure maximum dissemination.

  • new graduate
  • clinical practice
  • professional competence

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Strengths and limitations of this study

The search strings for this integrative review were developed in consultation with an experienced librarian.

The search is comprehensive and will include electronic databases (PubMed, EBSCOhost (including CINAHL, Medline, Health Science: Nursing and Academic Edition), Scopus, Web of Science and Cochrane. Hand searching and follow-up of reference lists of eligible publications will be done to ensure that all relevant literature are included in the study.

The authors will conduct a blind review to ensure rigorous and consistent application of the inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Qualitative data analysis software, namely, Weft QDA, will be used to analyse the literature to maximise the findings in terms of both implications for clinical practice and research.

The findings from the integrative review might not be exhaustive of all available literature on factors that affect new graduates’ transition into practice because it will be limited by the inclusion and exclusion criteria.


The transition from undergraduate student to health professional is recognised as a period of great stress for the new graduate. On commencing clinical practice, new graduates enter a relatively new and often challenging environment. They have to make substantial adjustments from being students whose procedures and activities were supervised in a controlled environment to practising independently as qualified health professionals. 1 This change in status from a student to a health professional is marked by changes in both roles and expectations, which requires that the theoretical knowledge acquired in school be transferred to the practice context. 2 Furthermore, new graduates are expected to plan and implement relevant client treatment programmes. This transition has been described as a period of stress, requiring effective management of conflicting values and role uncertainty. 3 In a phenomenological study conducted by Brennan et al 4 in the UK, junior doctors who participated in the study described their transition from medical students to junior doctors as extremely stressful; both physically and emotionally. The study highlighted that participants were overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety due to uncertainty about their clinical decisions including diagnosis and treatment. 4 Inadequate preparation for this transition may cause the new health professional’s therapy to be ineffective. 5

The transition to practice for new graduates was described as gradual and complex, involving a complete transformation particularly in the first year after graduation. A thorough literature review by McCombie and Antanavage 6 established that new graduates experience low personal and professional confidence, particularly at the initial stage of the transition. A phenomenological study by Seah et al 7 reported that all participants experienced shock on starting work due to the confusing nature of the hospital facility operations, administrative requirements, expectations of other health professionals and professional title.

To become a competent health professional, the nature of a new graduate’s transition plays a fundamental role. Several strategies have been identified in the literature to alleviate the challenges inherent in transition into practice. Supervision has been consistently emphasised as significant during transition. In occupational therapy, supervision has been shown to contribute to new graduates’ ability to relate their acquired knowledge to practice. 8 Hummel and Koelmeyer 9 conducted a quantitative cross-sectional study among occupational therapists (n=74) in Australia to investigate their perceptions, regarding their first year of practice. They found that formal supervision by an experienced health professional, who is capable of providing essential feedback and support, was considered a vital component of a successful transition 9 and fundamental to the new graduate’s perceived success at work. 10 Tryssenaar and Perkins 2 also found supervision to be a vital component to promoting competency. Also in the nursing profession, consistent emphasis has been placed on supervision as an effective strategy to help new graduate nurses to relate the knowledge acquired in the classroom to practice. 11–13 Thus, effective supervision equips new practitioners with competencies that are relevant to their professional career. This impacts on their practice by increasing clinical skills, self-confidence and perception of competence, consequently improving quality of service to clients. 12

The literature revealed several support and coping strategies aimed at easing the challenges of transition into practice. Moores and Fitzgerald 8 found that work colleagues play an important role in ensuring successful transition as they provide advice and information to new graduates. Support from experienced colleagues and other new graduate peers was reported to be highly valued. 8 Halfer and Graf 14 confirmed the importance of supervision and emphasised the value of positive relationships with other professionals and coworkers. A thorough literature review by Moores and Fitzgerald 8 revealed that interactions with peers in the form of group learning, networking and structured discussions on topics relevant to clinical practice supported the transition into practice. In an Australian cross-sectional study by Hummell and Koelmeyer, 9 the novice occupational therapists (n=74) reported that informal support from other new graduates within and beyond the workplace eased their role transition. Regan et al 15 highlighted that formal orientation and mentorship facilitated new health professionals’ transition into practice.

Continued professional development opportunities have also been reported as important in the transition of new graduates into practice. Seah et al 7 reported a positive link between novice professionals’ engagement in continued professional development and increased professional confidence in the clinical environment.

An integrative review will be beneficial in examining the availability and the extent of literature, examining varied perspectives on factors that affect transition into practice. It will aim to identify existing literature pertaining to the barriers and facilitators experienced during transition from being a new graduate to becoming a health professional and the evidence-based coping strategies that assist this transition. The integrative review will inform a larger study to be conducted in Ghana on the factors that impact the transition of new health graduates into independent practice. Health professions’ education programmes offer different types of graded practical exposure, designed to bridge learning between classroom teaching and clinical practice. For some health professions, clinical practice exposure is embedded in the curricula while others complete the pre-clinical component of their curriculum before entering a distinct internship. These differ in terms of level of expectation, duration and level of independence required. For example, occupational therapists complete 1000 hours of clinical practice experience as part of their education and training. 16 For the purpose of the integrative review, the authors will consider all practical and clinical exposures required as part of curricula leading up to qualification as entry-level health practitioners to be a component of learning and thus completed in capacity as student health professional. We are interested in the transition health professionals make having completed their education and training into independent practice.

Aims and objectives

This integrative review aims to identify research conducted in the last two decades (1999–2019) on the factors that affect newly graduated health professionals’ transition in becoming health professionals. The specific objectives are:

To determine the challenges associated with new health graduates’ transition into practice.

To identify the factors that facilitate transition of new health graduates into practice.

To describe the coping strategies employed by new graduates to ensure successful transition into practice.

Methods and analysis

The integrative review will be conducted using Whittemore and Knafl’s 17 integrative review methodology as a guide. This methodological framework comprises five stages: (1) problem identification, (2) literature search, (3) data evaluation, (4) data analysis and (5) presentation.

Problem identification

The nature of a health professional’s transition into independent practice is critical to development of clinical competence. There is wealth of literature on the transition of new graduates into practice for health professionals from diverse backgrounds. This integrative review will explore the factors that affect newly graduated health professionals’ transition into practice comprehensively. To capture the scope and the diversity of available literature, 17 three broad research questions were developed to guide this review. These are:

What types of challenges do new health graduates face during transition into practice?

What factors facilitate the transition of new health graduates into practice?

What coping strategies do new health graduates employ to ensure successful transition into practice?

Literature search

A search will be done to identify literature from electronic databases. Hand searches will be done to retrieve literature that were not found in the databases. Additionally, a follow-up of the reference lists of the included articles will be done to ensure that all relevant literature are included in the review.

Taking the research question and purpose into consideration, the following electronic databases have been chosen for the search for relevant literature for this review: PubMed, EBSCOhost (including CINAHL, Medline, Academic Search Premier, Health Science: Nursing and Academic Edition), Scopus, Cochrane and Web of Science. These databases and search terms were selected in consultation with an experienced subject librarian. The search terms include Medical Subject Heading terms on Medline (see table 1 ).

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Search strings derived from Medical Subject Heading

An initial search was done on 3 April 2019 to check the suitability of the search string. These results are presented in table 2 . Limiters applied were Published (January 1999 to April 2019), SmartText searching and Language (English only).

Initial database search results

The search will be done using the abstract/title field and will include articles published within the last two decades. Hand searching of the reference lists of included articles will be done to ensure that all articles relevant to the study are included.

Inclusion criteria

The review will include only research articles published in English within the last two decades (1999–2019). There will be no restriction by country. Preliminary inclusion and exclusion criteria have been developed as a guide in the selection of studies for this review. These are presented in table 3 .

Provisional selection criteria

Only primary studies on transition of new graduate health professionals into practice, when education has been completed, will be included. This is the period between starting work as a supervised novice to being a competent health professional who has completed the transition. Figure 1 illustrates the period of transition into practice.

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Period of transition into practice illustration.

Data evaluation

All studies that meet the inclusion criteria will be included in this review. Titles and abstracts of all retrieved literature will be uploaded onto Covidence, which will be used to manage the project. The Covidence platform will remove duplicates automatically before the review process will begin. Quality assessment will consider issues such as the clarity of the study aim, the participants and the relevance to answer the research questions of the proposed review. Three independent reviewers will screen all studies against the inclusion criteria to determine their eligibility to be included in this integrative review. Following the title and abstract screening, the full texts of the included publications will be uploaded for full-text screening against the same predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria by the same three reviewers. Full-text publications which meet the inclusion criteria will be selected for data extraction. Conflicts will be resolved by consultation among the three reviewers until a consensus is reached. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis Protocols diagram will be used to represent the number of articles that were identified in each of the steps of the review process for visual representation.

Once consensus has been reached on eligibility, relevant data will be extracted. The primary reviewer will read each of the selected full-text publications. A data charting form, adapted from Uys et al 18 will be used in the extraction of the data that will answer the research questions and organise existing literature. To test the feasibility, the form will be tested by the lead reviewer on a random sample of the publications included in the review. Key information obtained from the full articles reviewed will be charted. For each of the included studies, the researcher will extract the following data:

Study characteristics: author names, publishing journal, year of study published, country of study and the population of the study.

Study aims, objectives and/or research questions, the study design.

The findings, with particular emphasis on the barriers, the facilitators and coping strategies of transition into practice.

Data analysis

An inductive and thematic approach to data analysis will be used. Weft QDA, a qualitative data analysis system, will be used to analyse and categorise the literature into theme areas. The analysis will focus on extracting themes from the following areas:

The challenges associated with transition into practice for new health graduates.

The facilitators of transition into practice for new health graduates.

The coping strategies employed by new graduates to ensure successful transition into practice.


Once the data evaluation and extraction process have been completed, the study findings will be presented in the form of descriptions and narrations. Given the likely heterogeneity of studies that will be included in this study, narrative summaries of the characteristics of each study will be presented. The findings will be synthesised and written up into a coherent article.

Patient and public involvement

The proposed integrative review will not have any patient or public involvement.

The researchers anticipate that the findings of this integrative review will contribute to advancing knowledge of the barriers, the facilitators and the coping strategies of transition into practice. These can enable clinical supervisors, academics and policymakers to better understand challenges faced and strategies that can assist novice health professionals. Students and new graduates in health sciences might be informed of the obstacles that they are likely to encounter when they commence practice after graduation. They might also be informed of the facilitators and coping strategies that have been found to assist transition into practice. Findings from this study might also inform curriculum development to better prepare students for transition into practice.

Ethics and dissemination

Ethical approval is not required for this integrative review since existing literature will be synthesised. Once all the steps have been completed, the integrative review will be published in health professional education or practice journal. The findings will also be presented at international, national and local conferences.


The authors acknowledge the assistance of Mrs Ingrid Van der Westhulzen (subject librarian) at the University of Stellenbosch for contributing towards developing the initial search strings for the integrative review.

  • Tryssenaar J ,
  • Brennan N ,
  • Corrigan O ,
  • Allard J , et al
  • McCombie RP ,
  • Antanavage ME
  • Mackenzie L ,
  • Fitzgerald C
  • Hummell J ,
  • Koelmeyer L
  • Kennedy-Jones M
  • De Bellis A ,
  • Longson D ,
  • Glover P , et al
  • Al Awaisi H ,
  • Pryjmachuk S
  • Laschinger HK , et al
  • Minimum Standards for the Education of Occupational Therapists
  • Whittemore R ,
  • Buchanan H ,
  • Van Niekerk L

Twitter @OpokuNkansah

Contributors All three authors of this article contributed to the conceptualisation, drafting, development and editing of this integrative review protocol. ENO drafted the initial protocol manuscript as part of his master’s degree, LVN and L-AJ-NK guided the development of the protocol and made substantial conceptual and editing contributions and have approved this manuscript. All researchers contributed to all drafts of the manuscript and will be involved in screening and extracting the data once the integrative review commences. The researchers are all committed to being accountable for all aspects of this protocol.

Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Competing interests None declared.

Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

Patient consent for publication Not required.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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Transition From a Student to Nurse

Introduction, new graduate nurse’s roles, skills, knowledge, and attitudes, personal conversation, issues and challenges, transitioning strategies.

The transition from education to work is challenging for new nurses who now have to use their theoretical knowledge in practice. Graduate nurses have to present themselves as fully capable professionals, and the lack of preparation can limit their success in finding a job. Moreover, many issues await nurses during their first year of employment. Thus, there exists a need for special programs that assist new graduates in assimilating. This essay explores the roles of new graduate nurses, the skills necessary for a positive start, as well as transition to practice programs built on the basis of preceptor support and quality assurance feedback loop.

Nowadays, the healthcare environment requires a variety of nurses with vast general knowledge and specific skills. Although new graduates are not expected to take the position of leaders and managers, they have to recognize that nurses assume a significant amount of responsibility at all times. Nurses act as coordinators of care and members of an interdisciplinary team, connecting the patient to other providers. Moreover, nurses help patients transition out of a hospital and, in some cases, work in different settings. With the introduction of telehealth and other online-based medical services, new graduates may need to assume the role of innovators in their workplace.

The abundance of roles that new nurses have to assume implies that recent graduates have to possess a variety of skills to excel in finding and keeping a job. First of all, the knowledge of nursing duties and processes, as well as a theoretical base of standards of care, is crucial for nurses (Mackay & Harding, 2019). Without a proper understanding of the profession, one cannot ensure a high quality of care. Next, professional nursing behavior is vital for one’s collaboration with other health providers and interaction with patients (Brown & Crookes, 2016). A nurse should understand the pillars of nursing ethics and the ways in which people exchange information in healthcare.

In this case, communication skills are another essential part of one’s preparation (Brown & Crookes, 2016). New graduates should know how to ask questions and how to engage with patients and colleagues. Some specific skills also include privacy during medication administration, dignity, transparency, and teamwork.

According to a conversation with a nurse leader, in her experience, new nurses often lack self-confidence and flexibility to respond to unexpected situations. As a result, some new graduates either ask too many questions, fearing that their actions are incorrect, or avoid asking questions entirely, thinking that not knowing something will worsen the opinion of the supervisor. This issue usually develops into stress for new hires, increasing turnover as a result. As mentioned above, new graduates may also be completely unprepared for new scenarios that they did not encounter during their training.

While this possibility should be expected, the inability to respond or adapt leads to stress and medical errors. As for the attitudes, the nursing leader notes that new nurses may underestimate how their profession will impact their personal life. Therefore, she argues that graduates should analyze how their dynamics with relatives and loved ones can change due to their new schedules and professional experience.

There are many issues for which new graduate nurses have to prepare. Many of them are related to the transitioning process, during which many nurses experience great levels of anxiety and stress (Phillips et al., 2017). First of all, upon graduation, nurses usually possess a basic skill set that can be improved with specialization and experience. However, some organizations may expect new graduates to be completely prepared to become a part of their nursing teams immediately after being hired (Phillips et al., 2017). In other cases, an opposite challenge may arise where nurses overestimate their knowledge and are unprepared for criticism and challenging tasks (Phillips et al., 2017). Burnout and disillusioning are related problems – nursing is a profession that requires substantial physical, mental, and emotional labor.

To help new graduates in their shift from learning to working, health organizations can implement specific strategies. According to Silvestre et al. (2017), a transition to practice program that benefits new graduate registered nurses has to include orientation, preceptorship, feedback, and reflection. Thus, nurse managers accepting new graduates have to inform them about the workplace, other staff members, duties, communication channels, standards, policies, and other aspects of their particular practice setting. Furthermore, preceptorship was shown to allow new nurses to receive feedback as well as have a mentor whose experience contributes to knowledge and self-reliance.

Quality assurance feedback loops, for example, result in greater commitment, lower rates of turnover, and higher satisfaction scores (Phillips et al., 2017). The ability to reflect on one’s performance is another transitioning method that enriches nurses’ understanding of their profession.

Overall, new graduates face many challenges when transitioning from education to work. Some have unrealistic expectations, while others are insecure in their knowledge. A proper support program should be implemented in healthcare organizations to help new nurses gain a level of independence, realize their place in the industry, and overcome personal challenges. Nurses, in turn, should work on their communication skills, flexibility, critical thinking, teamwork, and reflection to meet the expectations of their future employers and managers.

Brown, R. A., & Crookes, P. A. (2016). What are the ‘necessary’ skills for a newly graduating RN? Results of an Australian survey. BMC Nursing , 15 (23), 1-8.

Mackay, B., & Harding, T. (2019). Registered nurse’s perceptions of the transferability of new graduate registered nurses skills across healthcare settings. Open Journal of Nursing , 9 (10), 1088.

Phillips, C., Kenny, A., & Esterman, A. (2017). Supporting graduate nurse transition to practice through a quality assurance feedback loop. Nurse Education in Practice , 27 , 121-127.

Silvestre, J. H., Ulrich, B. T., Johnson, T., Spector, N., & Blegen, M. A. (2017). A multisite study on a new graduate registered nurse transition to practice program: Return on investment. Nursing Economics , 35 (3), 110-118.

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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Writing is an essential skill nurses should achieve proficiency in early in their career. It is a crucial part of the profession, as nurses need to be able to effectively communicate with patients, families, and other healthcare professionals.

While verbal communication also plays a vital role in nursing, being able to write well builds the nurse's ability to provide better care.

Being able to accurately detail a patient's personal history, symptoms, and diagnosis allows for the execution of a precise treatment plan that is clearly communicated to all parties involved, both professional and personal.

From registered nurses to clinical nurses and beyond, being able to communicate effectively and efficiently is a critical soft skill that will help nurses in any role increase their ability to treat their patients.

This guide provides an overview of the types of writing nurses will experience throughout their educational training. Utilize the following tips and tricks to help strengthen your writing skills, which will ultimately help in the development of transferable career skills .

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Types of writing nurses will do in school, personal statements for nursing school.

Nursing schools want candidates who meet academic and professional requirements. They also want a candidate who demonstrates a sincere passion for patient care and individual connections. You should always craft a personal statement, even when the application doesn't explicitly require one. Personal statements allow you to describe your goals, characteristics, credentials, volunteer work, and meaningful life experiences. A well-crafted essay can help you stand out among other qualified applicants. And, as with any piece of writing, you must take the time to revise.

In your personal statement, you should portray yourself as determined and empathetic, with characteristics, goals, work ethic, and healthcare philosophy that align with a program's values. Some nursing schools ask for a general personal statement, while others require a specific prompt. Colleges commonly ask students to describe a hardship they overcame, a difficult task they accomplished, or a professional goal they hope to achieve through the program. Many schools also ask students to detail previous experiences in healthcare. You may decide to write about how you connect with patients or how you provide practical and emotional support to loved ones.

You will also encounter writing prompts during examinations, including standardized tests like the GRE or MCAT, nursing school entrance exams , and course-specific evaluations. You may also take exams to get state licensure or professional certification. In most of these instances, you will need to write one or several long-form essays. Proper planning is key. Though you won't know what specific prompt the test will require, you can expect certain common topics. You can search online or use study guides to determine which prompts usually appear on each test.

On test day, you should begin by creating an outline that lists three main points in response to the prompt. Using these points, work backwards to write a central thesis to guide the essay's structure. Review what you've written to ensure that the essay actually responds to the prompt at hand. Be sure to leave time to correct spelling, grammar, and stylistic errors.

Research Papers

Like essays, research papers follow a long-form structure. Unlike an essay, which heavily relies on the writer's point of view, a research paper presents an in-depth investigation of a topic using data, expert opinions, and insights. While an essay evaluates general critical thinking and writing skills, a research paper tests your knowledge, research skills, and original contributions. Research papers also allow you to prove you understand what has been argued and discovered about a topic. Research papers, especially at the graduate and doctoral levels, require independent research and analyses. These papers sometimes take months or years to complete.

To write a successful research paper, you should pick a topic relevant to your interests and the nursing field. Possibilities include elderly care challenges, patient safety and ethics, mental health treatment and regulations in the U.S., and nursing shortages and possible solutions. Whatever your choice, you must plan accordingly. Advanced papers such as dissertations may require funding or help from professors. Research papers often consist of the following sections: abstract, introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. You should keep this general structure in mind as you prepare notes and outlines.

How Do You Write a Nursing Essay?

In nursing school, essay writing includes academic papers, personal narratives, and professional compositions. You should become familiar with each of the five major forms below. There are many similarities between these essay types, such as an overarching thesis and a supportive, logical structure. You should support claims with factual, statistical, anecdotal, and rhetorical evidence. However, each form requires distinct skills to achieve specific results.


Cause and effect, citations guide for nursing students.

Citations allow readers to know where information came from. By citing sources, you avoid plagiarizing or stealing another person's ideas, research, language, and analyses. Whether intentional or unintentional, plagiarism is one of the most egregious errors one can make. Consequences for plagiarism include automatic course failure, disciplinary actions from the university, and even legal repercussions. You should take special care to ensure you properly cite sources.

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American Psychological Association (APA) Style

APA is the most commonly used style among natural scientists, social scientists, educators, and nurses. Like other citation styles, APA emphasizes clarity of font style, font size, spacing, and paragraph structure. APA citations focus on publication date, and in most cases, the date comes right after the author's name. This order makes the style particularly useful for scientists, who value new research and updates on current findings. For more information on APA style, visit this official website .

(Author and year of publication, page number) "Punishment, then, will tend to become the most hidden part of the penal process" (Foucault, 1977, p. 9).

Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)

CMS (also known as CMOS or, simply, Chicago) features two citation systems, the notes and bibliography, and the author and date. This style is used primarily by historians, who place high importance on a text's origin. The notes and bibliography include a superscript number with a corresponding footnote or endnote. Scientific professionals use the author and date citation, a generic parenthetical system with similarities to other citation styles. The CMS official website provides additional information, including changes to citation systems in the current edition.

"Punishment, then, will tend to become the most hidden part of the penal process". 1 1. Michel Foucault, trans. Alan Sheridan, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977), 9.

(Author and year of publication, page number) "Punishment, then, will tend to become the most hidden part of the penal process" (Foucault 1977, 9).

Modern Language Association (MLA) Format

MLA format traces its history to 1951 when it was first published as a thin booklet. Today, MLA is the primary format used by academics and professionals in humanities, English, literature, media studies, and cultural studies. To adapt to the rapid growth of new mediums over the past few decades, MLA updates its citation system. Visit the MLA Style Center for in-depth information on new guidelines and ongoing changes. In general, in text citations consist of author and page number, or just page number if the author's name appears in the text.

(Author and page number) "Punishment, then, will tend to become the most hidden part of the penal process" (Foucault 9).

Associated Press (AP) Style

Published in 1952, the original AP Stylebook was marketed to journalists and other professionals related to the Associated Press. AP now stands as the go-to style for professionals in business, public relations, media, mass communications, and journalism. AP style prioritizes brevity and accuracy. The style includes specific guidelines regarding technological terms, titles, locations, and abbreviations and acronyms. Unlike the previous styles, AP does not use parenthetical or in-text citations. Rather, writers cite sources directly in the prose. For more information, including style-checking tools and quizzes, visit the Associated Press Stylebook .

In the book, "Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison," first published in English in 1977, philosopher Michel Foucault argues that "Punishment, then, will tend to become the most hidden part of the penal process".

Which Style Should Nursing Students Use?

Because nurses rely on scientific terms and information, professionals in the field usually use APA style. Regardless of the purpose and specific genre of your text, you should always strive for concise, objective, and evidenced-based writing. You can expect to learn APA style as soon as you enroll in a major course. However, you should also prepare to learn other styles as part of your academic training. For example, freshman composition classes tend to focus on MLA guidelines.

Common Writing Mistakes Students Make

Active vs. passive voice.

Active and passive voice represent two different ways to present the same piece of information. Active voice focuses on the subject performing an action. For example, the dog bites the boy. This format creates clear, concise, and engaging writing. Using active voice, nurses might write, I administered patient care at 11:00. Passive voice, on the other hand, focuses on the object of the sentence or the action being performed. For example, the boy was bitten by the dog. A passive sentence is usually one that contains the verb "to be." Using passive voice, you might write, patient care was administered at 11:00.

Professionals in the sciences often use passive voice in their writing to create an objective tone and authorial distance. Passive voice can prioritize specific terms, actions, evidence, or research over the writer's presence. Additionally, nurses use passive voice because it is usually clear that the reported thoughts, actions, and opinions come from them. However, you must also learn how to use active voice.


There are 14 punctuation marks in the English language, each with multiple and sometimes overlapping uses. Additionally, certain punctuation marks only make sense in highly specific and nuanced grammatical instances. To master punctuation, you must learn through practice, particularly by revising your own writing.

For example, colons and semicolons are often used interchangeably, when they actually serve distinct purposes. Generally used before itemized lists, colons stand in for the phrases "here is what I mean" or "that is to say." For example, I am bringing three things to the picnic: applesauce, napkins, and lemonade. Semicolons separate two independent clauses connected through topic or meaning. For example, It was below zero; Ricardo wondered if he would freeze to death. Comma splices, which create run on sentences, are another common mistake. You can identify a comma splice by learning the differences between an independent and dependent clause.

Grammar refers to the rules of a particular language system. Grammar determines how users can structure words and form sentences with coherent meaning. Aspects include syntax (the arrangement of words to convey their mutual relations in a sentence) and semantics (how individual words and word groups are understood). Unless you major in writing, literature, etymology, or another related field, you generally won't examine English grammar deeply. Through years of cognitive development and practice, native users implicitly understand how to effectively employ the language.

Distinct grammatical systems exist for each language and, sometimes, even within a single language. For example, African American Vernacular English uses different syntactic rules than General American English. You should learn grammatical terms and definitions. Common errors include subject/verb agreement, sentence fragments, dangling modifiers, and vague or incorrect pronoun usage. Hasty writers can also misuse phonetically similar words (your/you're, its/it's, and there/their/they're).

Writing Resources for Nursing Students

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Portrait of Shrilekha Deshaies, MSN, RN

Shrilekha Deshaies, MSN, RN

Shri Deshaies is a nurse educator with over 20 years of experience teaching in hospital, nursing school, and community settings. Deshaies' clinical area of expertise is critical care nursing and she is a certified critical care nurse. She has worked in various surgical ICUs throughout her career, including cardiovascular, trauma, and neurosurgery.

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How to Create a New Graduate Nurse Resume & Cover Letter

New graduate nurse resume

By the time you graduate nursing school, you may be an expert in cath placement, starting IVs, and dropping those nursing diagnoses, but you might not be an expert in the one act you’ll need to ace right after graduation: getting your first nursing job .    It might be easy to think that your application process for your first nursing job will be similar to that stressful practicum exam (why is it so much harder to put on sterile gloves in front of other people?!), but to apply for a nursing job, you’ll need to create an effective new graduate nursing resume and cover letter.    Of course, it can be a little more challenging to create a resume if you’re a new grad without any official nursing experience, but don’t worry—most hospitals not only expect that, but welcome new grads, and are specifically recruiting new grad nurses. So, here’s how to craft the perfect new grad nursing resume and cover letter, with examples to help you land that dream job. 

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Nursing Resume vs Cover Letter

First things first: let’s discuss the differences between a nursing cover letter and a resume. A cover letter is a personal letter that you will include either in an email or with the application. The cover letter directly addresses the employer states your interest in the job, and lists a few personal reasons why you’re right for the job. There will be more on crafting a cover letter below. 

A resume, on the other hand, is your professional portfolio that lists your education, experience, skills, and certifications. You can think of the cover letter as the personal touch and the resume as the highlight reel. 

Plus, get exclusive access to discounts for nurses, stay informed on the latest nurse news, and learn how to take the next steps in your career.

How to Create a Nursing Resume as a New Grad

There are two basic ways to create a nursing resume : 

  • Craft your own version
  • Use a premade template 

For instance, many document editing software systems, such as Word, have built-in templates that can be adapted for your own individual use. 

In general, no matter if you craft your own resume or use a premade template, a new grad nursing resume will include 5 basic elements:

1. Your Personal Information

This section will include all of your personal information, such as your name, title, phone number, address, and email. Include a personal email address instead of a school-associated one. Eventually, your school email may be disabled and you will want HR to be able to contact you. Some people will also opt to include a small, work-appropriate headshot (no selfies!) as well.

A resume should highlight specific skills that you possess that can translate into your nursing career. For instance, skills such as working with a team, critical thinking, communication, and time management are all valuable for nurses.

3. Certifications

In this section, you should list any certifications you have already obtained, such as your CPR, ALS, or any other advanced certification you have earned. If you have passed your NCLEX, list your RN credentials as well.

4. Licenses

If you have not passed your NCLEX or have not taken it yet, you can write, “Eligible for NCLEX test for RN on X date,” so that the employer knows when you will be taking the NCLEX. 

Employing hospitals are understanding of the fact that there can be a delay between graduation and getting a date for your NCLEX test, so it’s okay to apply before you have taken your NCLEX test. 

Just be aware that if you are hired, there will be some limitations to your work until you officially become an RN.

5. Education

Under the education section of your resume, you will list any institutions for higher education that you attended. 

It’s optional if you want to include your high school, but considering you’re graduating from a nursing program, it’s not necessary. 

You can include details if you attended a college in the beginning of your education, then transferred. You’ll also include your GPA, any honors you received during your education, and your major and minor.

6. Relevant Experience

Because you most likely don’t have a lot of official nursing experience, this is the section to really highlight what kind of experience you do have that is relevant to the job. 

Of course, you’ll want to include any experience you have—both paid and volunteer—in the medical field. Maybe you’ve volunteered at a nursing home, have piloted community events, or have been working as a CNA. Whatever it is, highlight it!

If you made it through nursing school without any official healthcare work or volunteer roles, that’s okay too. You can translate many skills from different jobs, such as communicating, teamwork, and time management with customer service or retail roles. 

>> Find Nursing Jobs Hiring Now on the Job Board

New Grad Nursing Resume Tips

It might feel challenging to create your first nursing resume, but here are some tips to help you along the way:

1.) Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Personality Shine

A new grad resume will be a pretty standard document and you should always keep it professional, but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through your resume too. 

You can add personal touches, such as design elements, including color, or a personal photo, as well as highlight the skills and experiences and even goals for your future career.

2.) Have Friends and Family Review the Resume

It’s time to bring in the village! Gather a few people you trust who can review the resume for you and make sure it’s typo-free and shines a spotlight on your best qualities.

3.) Be Sure to Read the Job Description

If you are applying for a specific job position, be sure to carefully read the entire job description and posting so you know what they are looking for. 

If they have outlined specific skills or traits, include those in your resume. If they state that they are looking for someone who has graduated from a local school, highlight that on your resume. If they want someone who is willing to train in new areas, be sure to let them know that that’s you! 

Not only does referencing the job posting in your resume show them that you have done your research and really are the right person for the job, but it can also help ensure your resume gets past any resume-scanning software that the facility may be using.

4.) Ask for Help

If you need assistance in crafting your resume, there are resources that can help. 

Firstly, you could consider asking your nursing school or professors for help. They should be able to point you to resources or help you directly. 

Next, a friend may be a good resource—they could have a template you could build off, or offer advice for creating your own resume. 

Lastly, there are professional resume services that you can hire for complete help with your resume. There are perfectly valid reasons why someone might need professional help for a resume, and there’s no shame in that.

5.) Include Letters of Recommendation

Some places of employment may require references or letters of recommendation, but even if they do not, it’s a good idea to include references and letters of recommendation, if possible.

 A good place to start is to ask your professors, clinical educators, or current managers.

New Grad Nursing Resume Example

Education and certification.

Use this section to highlight your relevant passions, activities, and how they relate to nursing. It’s good to include Leadership and volunteer experiences here. Or show off important extras like publications, certifications, languages and more.

Bonus! New Grad Nursing Resume Templates You Can Use

new graduate nurse essay

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Cover Letters for New Grad Nurses

You’ve got your resume looking great, now it’s time for the dreaded new grad nurse cover letter . Never fear! We have the tips to help you shine on your cover letter.

Do You Need a Cover Letter When Applying to Jobs as a New Grad Nurse?

In most situations, you do need a cover letter when applying for nursing positions.

What Should You Include in a Cover Letter as a New Grad Nurse?

A new nurse grad’s cover letter should include your personal and contact information, like your name, address, phone number, and email, and a personal statement to the employer that you are applying for a job at. 

This is your opportunity to speak personally to the employer, highlight why you want to work for them, and how your skills, experience, and passions match with the job assignment.

How is a New Grad Nurse Cover Letter Unique From Other Cover Letters?

A new grad nurse’s cover letter should focus on your strengths and how those strengths can be an asset to the organization, as well as your future career goals and how taking this position will help you fulfill those goals. 

For instance, if you hope to gain experience in working in an ICU position, speak directly to that goal. 

New Grad Nurse Cover Letter Example

Your name Address Phone number, email

To Whom It May Concern:

I am interested in applying for a position at This Medical Center. I am a recent graduate of Your School, where I obtained my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. I will be eligible to sit for my NCLEX on THIS DATE and I am eager to utilize my knowledge and grow in experience by becoming a team member with This Medical Center.

During the course of my education, I INSERT PERSONAL DETAILS OR STORY ABOUT WHY YOU WANT THIS JOB OR YOUR OWN SKILLS. I am confident that my clinical experience in combination with my motivation, determination and strong critical thinking skills will enable me to excel in any clinical setting. 

As a long-time member of this community and someone who has had family members who have been patients at This Medical Center, it is extremely important to me to embody the goal of this organization by serving the community with caring, compassion and competence.

It is my sincere hope that I may become a vital member of the healthcare team at this organization. I aspire to grow on a professional level working with other team members, as well as personally, learning from each and every patient I will care for. I am confident that This Medical Center is an excellent choice for meeting these goals. 

Thank you in advance for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, Your name, G.N. (graduate nurse)

new graduate nurse essay

New Grad Nursing Resume FAQs

How long should a new grad nurse's resume be.

  • Ideally, a new grad’s resume should be no longer than one page.

Do you need to include a summary in your nursing resume?

  • You do not need to include a summary in your nursing resume, but a few short sentences can highlight your experience up to now, as well as your goals in the job you are applying for. Here’s more on how to write an effective summary.

How can nurses improve new grad resumes?

  • As a new grad, you can improve your resume by ensuring it aligns with the job position you’re applying for (for instance, include that any skills you have match what they’re looking for!), having trusted people review it for you, and if needed, hire professional help.

How do you write a nursing resume with no experience?

  • If you have no official nursing experience, highlight relevant skills, education, and experiences that could directly translate into a role as a nurse. For instance, many jobs and volunteer roles have relevant skills such as communicating, working as part of a team, and time management.

Should I put GPA on a nursing resume?

  • If you are a new grad, it can be helpful to put your GPA on a nursing resume, especially if you have not yet taken your NCLEX. Once you have earned your RN, however, a GPA is not necessary. You can include any academic honors, such as summa cum laude.'s Popular Articles and Resources

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