Journal of Professional Nursing

The Transition to Registered Nurse: The Experience of a Group of New Zealand Degree Graduates 

Jackie Walker, R.Cp.N, BA, MEd., Principal Academic Staff Member, Christchurch Polytechnic 

Reference:  Walker, J. (1998). Case Management and Nurses. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 13(2), 36-43.


Since 1991, entry to the nursing profession in New Zealand has primarily been through a three year degree programme.  The purpose of this study was to explore the issues faced by a group of degree graduates in their first year of registered nurse practice and to identify if the degree outcomes (such as critical thinking, problem solving, reflection on practice, research, independent learning and using cultural safety knowledge) had mediated this transition process.  Purposive sampling was used to invite five female graduates to take part in two focus groups, one held at 4 months and the other at 9 months after starting work.  Qualitative data were collected using semi-structured questions and the taped interviews were analyzed for themes.  Five themes were identified:  accepting responsibility, accepting their level of knowledge, becoming a team member, professional standards, and workplace conditions.  Graduates were using their cultural safety knowledge but they perceived their knowledge of research was linked to further academic study.  Their ability to critique their own practice was evident but they found it more difficult to challenge their colleagues’ practice and the wider agency culture.  Implications of the study are discussed in relation to nursing education and preceptor programmes and areas for further research are indicated.


new graduate, transition, accountability, professional standards



Since 1991, nursing education in New Zealand has followed an international trend to prepare registered nurses at degree level.  Degree programmes have been designed to develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving, reflection on practice, research independent learning and the use of cultural safety knowledge.  Programmes must meet Nursing Council (1997) standards for registration of comprehensive nurses which ensures demonstration of the competencies for safe nursing practice.  Continued...



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