• newly qualified nurse;
  • preceptorship;
  • pre-registration education;
  • role transition

• This paper outlines the qualitative findings of a study exploring the transition from student to Registered Nurse and the catalytic effect of the way in which newly registered nurses are prepared for this role change.

• The study explored the experiences of one cohort of students undertaking the pre-registration Advanced Diploma in Nursing Studies at the University of Sheffield.

• Data were collected pre-qualification and post-qualification in order to compare the expectations and reality of the transition period. Two key aspects emerged, one relating to the experience of students undertaking the final module of the course and the other to preceptorship once qualified. These two areas of practice have been the focus of development following dissemination of the research findings in the local NHS Hospitals.

• The study suggests that the transition period remains very stressful for some nurses, because of both pre-registration educational issues and the level of support received once qualified. Careful planning of the student experience in the final year and addressing inconsistencies within the preceptorship programmes of newly qualified nurses are needed. The study is stimulating change in the local NHS hospitals, with the aim of enhancing the overall experience of student nurses and newly qualified staff alike.