“The trend toward our hospitals being primarily populated with nurses with less than two years’ experience is worrisome.”
At least three colleagues who’ve recently been patients in hospitals or had family members who were have remarked on the youthful nurses they encountered—and on their lack of experience. In two of the conversations, my colleagues cited instances in which this lack of experience was detrimental to care, one of them dangerous. That “sixth sense,” that level of awareness that comes with lived experience and becomes part of expert clinical knowledge, is important for safe, quality patient care.
In the February editorial, I report on the answers I received when I queried our editorial board members about new nurses’ inclination to work in acute care for only two years to gain experience and then leave to pursue NP careers. Many of the board members have seen a similar trend, one reflected by research on nurse retention, some of it published in AJN (most recently, see Christine Kovner’s February 2014 study on the work patterns of newly licensed RNs, free until February 6).
As one board member noted:
“The narrative must be shifted to embrace the full range of roles and contributions of all nurses. Our health care system depends upon a well-trained, experienced workforce. The trend toward our hospitals being primarily populated with nurses with less than two years’ experience is worrisome.”
It’s a complex issue, and no one is faulting new RNs for the career paths they pursue. But as this trend accelerates, what can be done to ensure that there are enough experienced nurses at the bedside to protect patient safety? Let us know your thoughts.