International literature has highlighted the critical importance of how professional roles within the culture of nursing are learnt. The reality is that the messages revealed in the language and strategies used by role models, and culturally prescribed rules and standards, can contribute positively or negatively to the learning experience. This presentation will outline the results of a study which explored new graduate nurses’ experiences of being socialised into the profession by registered nurses in clinical practice.
Data collection was carried out through semi-structured interviews, then a general inductive approach was used to guide analysis. The meaningful descriptions gained through the use of qualitative descriptive design provided valuable insights into the experiences of the five new graduate nurse participants.
Three main themes emerged including: Lessons from the wilderness; Life in the wild; and Belonging to a wolf pack. Findings highlighted that despite encountering a range of professional behaviours, attitudes, and dilemmas the new graduate nurses were capable of being moral agents and thinking critically. However, these nurses rapidly became swept up in the acculturation process and had to adopt different strategies to cope.
Tensions in clinical practice need to be understood and overcome if moral distress caused by dissonance between expectation and experience is to be avoided. The responsibility of creating a supportive learning environment lies not only with formally recognised educators and leaders, but with all clinically based registered nurses. This study offers a number of strategies to actively support professional socialisation and ultimately, the development of a new nurse’s professional identity.
Key words: Professional socialisation, clinical practice, registered nurses