Dr Jane Douglas remembers her early years as a Registered Nurse.

“I remember those first few months on the job, they were really difficult,” she said.

Those memories and her future work in nursing were the catalyst for Dr Douglas to undertake a PhD from the School of Nursing, in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at the University of Wollongong, completing a thesis titled Early Career Registered Nurses: How and why they stay? Exploring their disorienting dilemmas.

“Nurses constitute the most significant number of health care workers globally and in Australia, but they continue to leave the system for various reasons,” she said.

“I worked as an RN for several years in numerous clinical areas and during that time I witnessed firsthand the effects of nursing shortages and the impacts on nurses, patients and clients. Added to this, I was hearing stories from the early career registered nurses (ECRN) as they spoke of the challenges they faced as new professionals.”

Dr Douglas said she wanted to take a strength-based approach to her research, and find out why ECRNs chose to stay rather than the reasons they may have left the profession. What she found was a disconnect between nursing students expectations of being RNs and the realities they faced once working in the field.

“What I found when working with new graduate nurses is that they take a little while to come up to speed but they do it really quickly and really well,” Dr Douglas said.

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