Monday, March 05, 2018

A Soft Landing for New Nurses

In speaking with large numbers of new nurses over the years, I consistently hear that novice nurses are not often given the guidance, nurturing, and mentoring that they truly need to move from surviving to thriving in their new nursing careers. New nurses need a "soft landing" as they enter the field, and it's up to us seasoned nurses to make sure they get it.

a soft landing for new nurses
Photo by Alex Lehner on Unsplash

If you're a nurse, take yourself back to when you were new to the profession. What was it like when you began your first job? Did you feel properly prepared? Were you scared to death? Did you feel like an imposter? Did you feel as if you had ten thumbs and couldn't remember anything you'd learned? Did you feel like your education had been a waste of time and you should simply return to waiting tables? How were you treated as you gained confidence and skill?

Many new nurses feel like impostors, and while they're scared to death to make an error and harm a patient, they're also often lonely, disconnected, and needing support as they find their "nurse legs".

Seasoned nurses have been known to roll their eyes when a new grad gets hired, thinking only of themselves and how that novice nurse will just create more work for them in terms of teaching, guiding, and assisting the new arrival, whether through formal preceptorship and mentoring or simple on-the-job guidance.

However, that cynical seasoned nurse needs to remember how it was when they began their career, and how one helpful and supportive colleague can absolutely change the entire trajectory and tenor of the first months in any new nurse's career. And since more than 30% of new nurses leave the profession entirely in the first three years, we need to take individual and collective responsibility for helping them to feel welcome and supported. After all, these new nurses are our future.

That's How It's Always Been

Having said that, some nurses will recall with great rancor (and a strange and vaguely sick pride) that their first days or months as a new nurse were fraught with loneliness, poor mentorship, and a "pick-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps" individualism. And since some nurses receive shoddy treatment and poor guidance when they start out, they simply decide that it's just "the way things are" and they subsequently choose to perpetuate that negative cycle by being just as unhelpful and belligerent as the nurses who so poorly "welcomed" them to the profession year ago. This perpetuation of new nurse hazing and maltreatment is misguided, cruel, and extremely short-sighted.

It doesn't have to be this way, and employers, nurses, and administrators need to realize that a "soft landing" for new grads is a good tactic to adopt, providing all manner of mentoring, preceptorship, training, and support so that new nurses begin their careers with the knowledge that their success matters and those around them are there to ensure their success.

A New Paradigm

In the new nursing and healthcare paradigm that some of us are attempting to create, new nurses are welcomed into the fold with open arms, guided into positions where their strengths can be celebrated, their weaknesses gently addressed, and their fears allayed. In this new world, graduate nurses are seen as the nurses of the future, the nurses who may one day care for our parents, our loved ones, and maybe even us as we grow older or become infirm.

New grad residency programs, precepting systems, mentoring programs, and using a true team approach can change the calculus of a new nursing grad's experience immensely, and these processes can also be very helpful and satisfying for the seasoned nurses who take on the task of guiding novice nurses to their full potential. 

It's For All of Us

The nursing profession and the overall healthcare system don't just need to care for the new nurses -- those of us who've been here for a while could use some care for as well. Nurses work diligently, put in long hours, and use their hard-earned expertise to further the cause of patient care in a variety of settings. As the veritable backbone of the healthcare system, nurse retention is acutely important, especially in light of the wave of older nurses who are expected to retire along with the general population in the years to come.

When we support and nurture new nurses we don't just benefit that particular new grad, although that is a wonderful thing in and of itself. When we perform this service, we benefit the colleagues who work with that confident new nurse, as well as the patients who receive that nurse's care. The ripple effect of that positive experience and nurturing of nurse development reverberates far and wide. As that new grad nurse grows into a mature and seasoned nursing professional, they can then bring that sense of self-confidence into their lives, subsequently sharing that nursing self-esteem and strong clinical experience with others, both personally and professionally.

New nurses are a boon to the profession and to the healthcare industry at large. New grads are the lifeblood and the lifeline for nursing and for healthcare. In terms of our succession planning, they are the future. Let's welcome, nurture ,and support them as they deserve. In return, their confident professionalism and well-honed clinical skills will pay innumerable dividends for decades to come.


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known nursing blog, Digital Doorway. Please visit his online platforms and reach out for his support when you need it most.

Keith is co-host of, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses.

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century and Aspire to be Inspired: Creating a Nursing Career That Matters. He has contributed chapters to a number of books related to the  nursing profession. Keith has written for,, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University, the ANA blog,, American Nurse Today, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online and print publications.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, keynote speaker, online nurse personality and social media influencer, podcaster, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives, and his adorable and intelligent cat, George.


lizmier said...

Great article. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this matter. You project a wisdom that is incredibly reassuring and appreciated. As a soon-to-be new grad, I hope to be treated in the way that you advocate, but am steeling myself against the possibility that I will likely encounter the negative behavior that is sadly a part of the "nurses eating their young" paradigm. However, if I become a preceptor to new grads one day, I am determined treat them with the guidance and understanding they deserve as the future of nursing.

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I'm glad your're determined to break the cycle! Please share this article with your colleagues and peers.

I also offer coaching for new nurses and nursing students who need help navigating the profession!

Michele, RN, BSN said...

amazing, insightful and essential for all nurses who realize the necessity to work collaboratively!

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Thanks so much, Michele! Please share the post widely!

Barbara Kivowitz said...

Really like this post. I think it's applicable to many helping professions.

Anonymous said...


You are spot on. I have worked with some awful mentors and colleagues who were just waiting for me to fail. What's the point of that, the power to be a b****?

Time to do something different and create this nurturing environment that you talk of, and where I work now. It makes a big difference in your life to know you are not alone.

Sue Bock, RN, BSN, Life Coach

Anonymous said...

Great expression of some common sense, yet ignored facts. For years I have spouted out -without popularity- about the need for internships for new nurse; the need to treat nurses who are starting a new specialty as if they were new grads; the need to act professional like we claim to be. How can we expect to be seen as a profession if we don't act that way.

Also, I wish to address your comment about celebrating a new nurses strong points. This is true, addressing the weak points is also true. But, as a profession we seem to forget that one person [the nurse] cannot know everything, cannot be proficient at everything. So why make a nurse do a job she is obviously not talented in. [Hope I explained that thought well]

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Very well explained. Thanks for chiming in!