Journal of Professional Nursing

The Clinical Performance of New Degree Graduates  

Jackie Walker, RCpN, BA, MEd and Suzi Bailey RCpN, BN Nurse Educators, School of Nursing, Christchurch Polytechnic

Reference:  Walker, J. (1999). The clinical performance of new degree graduates. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, (14)2, 31-43.


Since the transfer of nursing education from hospitals to tertiary institutions, debate regarding the competence of new graduates has continued. To date this issue has not been thoroughly researched. The lack of research related to the competence of degree graduates in New Zealand provided the impetus for this study, which was aimed toward identifying how graduates perceived their clinical performance during their first year of practice. A convenience sample of 30 graduates was surveyed after 3 months and 7 months in practice, using an adapted form of a questionnaire devised by Ryan and Hodson (1992). The results showed that over time, graduates generally required less direction in all areas of clinical competence. After 7 months in practice, the majority of the graduates rated their performance in nursing skills, communication skills, and professionalism at the expected level or above. However, some still required direction with using theory and research in practice, with meeting client’s psychosocial needs and with teaching clients. In the leadership competency, after 7 months, most graduates saw themselves functioning at the expected level related to client care and needed less direction in unit management skills. However, many of the unit management skills were rated as ‘not applicable’ indicating that new graduates are not initially placed in a management role. Implications for nursing education and limitations of the research are discussed.  

clinical competence, new graduate  

Currently in New Zealand, entry to the nursing profession is by a degree programme which aims to develop students’ skills in critical thinking, problem solving, reflection on practice, research, independent learning and being a culturally safe practitioner. These skills are essential for nurses to practise effectively, particularly in a socio-political environment where the health system continues to change.   

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