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Supporting newly qualified nurses

Published on: 30 Mar 2021

Increase the support and development of newly qualified nurses with effective supervision, mentorship and leadership training.

Supporting newly qualified nurses

COVID-19 has made ward manager duties even more challenging – and more likely for junior staff. Here’s how to help team members succeed

For an unprepared junior staff nurse, the role of ward manager is a scary step up. Many junior nurses will only experience being in charge for the first time when their senior colleagues are not there, stepping in to fill the role on a single shift at short notice with no time to practise, gain confidence or learn from mistakes in a safe and reflective environment.

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There is no course that tells a newly qualified nurse how to run a ward for a day when no-one else turns up.

They will arrive for handover, get the ward keys, orientate the temporary staff to the ward and start their day unscripted and stressed. It is unlikely they will have a meal break or go home on time.

We have a responsibility to invest in our front-line junior staff. It is not good governance to put people in charge who do not have adequate training, it is not safe to put people in charge who do not have the skills to lead, and it is not acceptable to allow junior nurses to be frightened when they come to work.

As a profession, we need to increase the support and development of our junior workforce by effective supervision, mentorship and leadership training. But we also need to ensure they learn their skills in a learning environment from great teachers– not on the job when all other staff are absent.

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How to support junior staff

Focus where possible, on supervising junior staff to manage a shift when senior support and backup is available. Find time to teach, run short simulation exercises, and support staff to practise, and shadow and learn from good role models
As a profession develop first-level manager and leader competencies, and give these national recognition so that nurses know they have reached specific levels of leadership and are capable of doing the job

Ensure junior staff feel confident that they will not be asked to take on management and leadership roles they are not trained to do without the support of senior staff

Listen to your staff so you can understand what support they need and help them get it

By Emily McWhirter, former director of nursing at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, London, until September 2020, and now a consultant adviser to the World Health Organization.

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This is an abridged version of the article First time in charge of a ward: the support every newly qualified nurse needs which was first published in Nursing Standard.

Read more careers articles on Nursing Standard