• newly qualified nurses;
  • nurse diplomates;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • phenomenology;
  • stress

Aim.  To explore the lived experiences of newly qualified nurses on clinical placement, during the first six months following registration, in the Republic of Ireland.

Background.  The subject of the experiences of newly qualified nurses is not generally well researched, although anecdotal articles are plentiful. In particular, the lived experiences of newly qualified diploma nurses in the Republic of Ireland are not reflected in the research literature. However, available literature on the subject clearly demonstrates that being a newly qualified staff nurse is particularly stressful and many nurses feel unprepared for the staff nurse role.

Design.  A phenomenological, Heideggerian, hermeneutic approach was used for this study.

Methods.  Ten diplomate staff nurses were interviewed and the data were analysed using a thematic analysis framework.

Results.  Newly qualified nurses in the Republic of Ireland describe their initial experiences of being on the ward as stressful. This stress is primarily related to the multi-dimensional responsibilities associated with the new role and to managerial/organizational/clinical skills deficits. The allocation of students and dealing with situations that they felt unprepared for added to their anxieties. However, diplomate nurses were willing to acknowledge these limitations and seek help when appropriate. Feeling valued, making a difference and financial reward were cited as being the positive aspects of the new role.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The preregistration nurse education curriculum needs to be developed further to help alleviate the problems associated with the initial transition to the staff nurse role. In addition, effective supportive systems need to be introduced for newly qualified nurses to help ensure that they are prepared for and supported in their professional role.