Transitioning from Student to Professional

Soneika (Sunny) Atkinson is a final-year student mental health nurse at the University of Essex. She recently spoke at our webinar ‘Unlocking Insights: Preceptorship Survey Results Revealed’ and in the blog, she shares some top tips for transitioning from student to professional.

“As a student nurse, graduating and moving from the classroom to the bedside can seem daunting. This transition from student to professional is a pivotal moment in our nursing careers, and the support we receive during this time can make all the difference. Preceptorship is a structured programme designed to ease this challenging transition and provide newly registered nurses with the support they need to thrive in their roles and not to be affected by burnout.

I was privileged to be a part of the panel of the recent ‘Unlocking Insights: Preceptorship Survey Results Revealed’ webinar in February. The findings from the survey sheds light on the state of preceptorship programmes across the UK, offering valuable insights for student nurses preparing to embark on their professional journey. Surveys conducted between 2021 and 2024 show that there has been a coordinated effort to improve access to, and the quality of, preceptorship programmes nationwide. Despite significant progress, challenges remain including; a lack of senior nurses to provide mentorship, workplace pressures, and organisational barriers.’

Key findings from the survey include:
  1. Improved Access to Preceptorship: Three-quarters (76%) of respondents reported that NRNs had access to a structured preceptorship programme in their organisation, compared to 64% in the previous survey.
  2. Increased Reception of Preceptorship: In the latest survey, the percentage of NRNs who reported being offered a preceptorship programme when they qualified rose from 83% to 93%.
  3. Barriers to Preceptorship: Workplace pressures and a lack of senior nurses to provide mentorship remain significant obstacles to effective preceptorship.
  4. International Nurses’ Experiences: Some internationally educated nurses struggled to access preceptorship programmes, raising concerns about equitable support for all new registrants.
Recommendations on how to mitigate these findings

Therefore, as student nurses preparing to take the plunge into professional practice, what can we do to navigate this transition effectively?

  • First and foremost, research is key. Before graduating, take the time to familiarise yourself with the preceptorship programmes offered by potential employers or healthcare organisations. Understanding the structure, duration and support provided can help you make informed decisions about job offers and set realistic expectations for your transition into practice. Some organisations attend career fairs at the university, you may get useful information at these events.
  • During clinical placements, seek guidance, coaching and mentorship from experienced nurses, academic advisors and clinical educators. Building relationships with preceptors and other healthcare professionals can provide valuable insights and support as you navigate the complexities of patient care.
  • Furthermore, use your clinical placements to actively engage in learning and skill development. Take the initiative to participate in various patient care activities, procedures, and scenarios to enhance your confidence and competence as you prepare for professional practice. Ask about the current preceptorship that the setting uses.
  • Networking is another essential aspect of preparing for your transition into professional practice. Connect with peers, mentors, and nursing professionals to build a supportive network and stay updated on industry trends and developments. Joining professional organisations, attending conferences, and participating in online forums can provide valuable connections and resources as you embark on your nursing career.
  • Staying informed about current issues, policies, and best practices in nursing is crucial for student nurses transitioning into professional roles. Subscribe to nursing journals, follow reputable healthcare news sources, and participate in continuing education opportunities to keep abreast of industry trends and developments.
  • Lastly, advocate for yourself and your peers by raising awareness of the importance of preceptorship and the need for adequate support during the transition to practice. Engage in discussions with educators, administrators, and policymakers to identify areas for improvement and drive positive change within healthcare organisations.

The journey from student to professional nurse can be challenging but rewarding. By actively engaging in preceptorship programmes, seeking guidance and mentorship, developing clinical skills, networking, staying informed, and advocating for support, student nurses can navigate this transition successfully and embark on a fulfilling career in nursing. Let us embrace the opportunities for growth, learning, and professional development that lie ahead.”

If you would like to watch the recording of the webinar, please click here.