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'Onboard' New Nurses to Prevent Them from Jumping Ship

   September 07, 2010

I've been thinking about new graduate nurses a lot recently. In my conversations with managers and educators, we talk about ways they are training new grads at their organizations and their greatest concerns. Their two top priorities are to ensure new nurse competency and to "onboard" the new staff to their organization.

Onboarding is a business management term that describes the process of assimilating new employees into an organization. More than simply orientation, onboarding is the process of embedding new employees into the culture and ensuring they not only become productive employees, but they become emotionally invested in the organization.

After all, organizations spend large amounts of time, effort, and resources on training new grads; the last thing they want is for those new grads to up and leave for somewhere else, which research shows they all too frequently do.

The onboarding process is crucial for new graduate nurses who face an enormous change process as they transition from student nurse to independent RNs. In my conversations with managers and educators at hospitals, they talk about the reality shock every new graduate nurse experiences and the importance of recognizing the stages new graduates go through:

Honeymoon phase: The first phase is the initial glow of their first job. They are excited to have completed school, passed the NCLEX, and be practicing in their chosen profession. They tend to view nursing through rose-colored glasses and have a positive view of their coworkers and the work environment.

Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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