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The graduate nursing workforce: Does an international perspective have relevance for New Zealand?

Susan Scott, RN, RM, MA, BA, Senior Lecturer, School of Health & Social Services, Massey University, Wellington
Annette Huntington, RN, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Health & Social Services, Massey University, Wellington
Heather Baker, RN, MA(Hons), Senior Lecturer, Director, Bachelor of Nursing, School of Nursing, The University of Auckland
Annette Dickinson, RN, PhD, Senior Lecturer/Nursing Research Fellow: Starship Children’s Health. Division of Health Care Practice, Auckland University of Technology

Scott, S., Huntington, A., Baker, H., & Dickinson, A. (2011). The graduate nursing workforce: Does an international perspective have relevance for New Zealand? Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 27(3), 4-12.


A key focus of concern in relation to the future shape of the nursing workforce internationally and nationally has been the perceived high attrition rate of graduates. This concern has been accompanied by a plethora of literature on graduate transition to practice. Many of the studies have been carried out from the perspective of the employing organisation and look at graduates turnover intent and retention strategies within the first year of practice. In recent years New Zealand has responded with some success to these concerns by introducing graduate programmes covering the first twelve months of practice.

There are fewer published studies that have used local, regional or national populations of nursing graduates to explore actual turnover for periods longer than the first twelve months transition. This paper reviews these latter studies and shows that the most likely reasons for mobility, both within nursing or out of the profession, have been found to be related to the work environment and family responsibilities. Although some graduates leave the nursing profession early in their career, many more have made an employment move within nursing, and younger mobile graduates in particular are interested in career promotion. These findings suggest that ongoing innovation in roles and skills within the professional work context is required to ensure longer term retention of graduates. As New Zealand is now collecting graduate nursing workforce data these international findings have implications which should be considered in the development of New Zealand nursing workforce strategy. Encouraging graduate stability depends on a graduate workforce strategy which takes a perspective longer than twelve months.

Key words: graduates; nursing workforce; retention, recruitment.