• clinical learning environment;
  • newly qualified nurses;
  • nurses;
  • nursing students;
  • preparation for practice;
  • supernumerary

Aims and objectives.  The aim of this paper is to report on the insights of newly qualified Irish nurses into their preparation for registration as general nurses and to develop insights into the postregistration experience.

Background.  Nurse education in Ireland has undergone much reform over the past decade. These changes include the introduction of supernumerary status for nursing students and the formation of links with institutes of higher education. No Irish literature was found on this subject.

Method.  Individual semi-structured, in-depth interviews were held with 12 newly registered nurses, from two cohorts, within 10 months of qualification. A grounded theory approach was adopted and content analysis employed to analyse the data.

Results.  Two categories, entitled Learning the Ropes and The Metamorphosis emerged from the analysis of data. Within each of these categories there were two subcategories. All respondents reported that since qualification, they had become increasingly conscious of their isolation and unmet needs as nursing students. Postregistration, they enjoyed their increased status and widespread recognition by others.

Conclusions.  This study details how improvements can be made at clinical level to assist the preparation of nursing students for registration. The positive aspects of registration are revealed through descriptions of comparisons of pre- and postregistration experiences, while the shortcomings of the journey to registration are described.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Pre-registration nurses have unmet clinical needs which, if fulfilled, would benefit them post-registration. Good ward morale is elementary for student learning and enhances the post-registration experience. Registered nurses are highly conscious of their altered status. These findings are pertinent to clinicians and educationalists as they prepare nursing students for practice.