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Nursing Research and Practice
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 690348, 7 pages
Research Article

Entry into Nursing: An Ethnographic Study of Newly Qualified Nurses Taking on the Nursing Role in a Hospital Setting

1Faculty of Nursing, Oslo and Akershus University College, Pilestredet 52, N-0167 Oslo, Norway
2Department of Nursing Science, University of Oslo, Postboks 1153, Blindern, 0318 Oslo, Norway

Received 3 July 2012; Accepted 30 August 2012

Academic Editor: Maria Helena Palucci Marziale

Copyright © 2012 Mari Skancke Bjerknes and Ida Torunn Bjørk. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The transition from student to working nurse has long been recognized as challenging. This paper presents the findings of research into the opportunities and limitations encountered by newly qualified nurses when taking on the nursing role. The study had an ethnographic design. Observation, interviews, and document analysis were used to gain insight into nurses' daily work from the perspective of recently graduated nurses. Thirteen nurses were monitored closely during their first year in a hospital setting in Norway. These new nurses generally entered the field with empathy for their patients, enthusiasm for the profession, and readiness to learn more about being a good nurse. However, their more experienced colleagues seemed to neither respect nor nurture this attitude. The new nurses experienced heavier responsibilities than expected, fragmentation of patient care, and stressful interactions with colleagues. The lack of a supportive work environment and role models increased the new nurses' experience of overwhelming responsibility in their daily work situations. The nurses learned to cope the hard way, despite the organizational culture, not because of it. Adjusting the profession's expectations of new nurses, and offering good role models and more comprehensive support programmes, would markedly ease the transition for new nurses.