Get access

Highly qualified and highly ambitious: implications for workforce retention of realising the career expectations of graduate nurses in England


Dr Sarah Robinson, Nursing Research Unit, King's College London, James Clerk Maxwell Building, 57 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8WA. Email:


Although increasing numbers of graduates now enter the UK labour market, there has been little evaluation of the benefits that this component of the workforce is reported to bring to employing organisations. This study focused on nursing; a profession in which graduate entry is increasing but potential benefits of moving to all-graduate entry are strongly contested. Career behaviour and expectations of graduate nurses were compared with those of diploma-qualified nurses. Career behaviours were similar but differences were found in fulfilment of expectations that reflected findings reported for graduates in other employment contexts. Graduates entered nursing with higher expectations than diplomates but these were often unfulfilled. Graduates reported lower levels of satisfaction than diplomates over time and became less likely to intend remaining in nursing. Implications for increasing graduate entry are discussed, together with strategies to facilitate better synchronisation between graduate expectations and opportunities within the NHS and beyond.