The Moral Obligation to Support New Registered Nurses' Adaptation

Sunday, 17 November 2013: 3:05 PM

Kathleen S. Ashton, PhD, RN
PeriAnesthesia Services, Duke Hospital, Durham, NC

Learning Objective 1: discuss aspects of the new registered nurses' experiences which may affect their personal and professional adaptation

Learning Objective 2: consider strategies which may decrease new registered nurses' acute and chronic occupational fatigue

Background: Despite increased awareness of new Registered Nurses’ needs and a proliferation of programs designed to support them, new Registered Nurses (new RNs)  continue to report high levels of work-related stress, multiple challenges, and negative emotional responses during their first year in practice.  The emphasis on the financial aspects of supporting new RNs in much of the current nursing literature has obscured nursing leaders’ basic obligation to facilitate new RNs’ personal and professional adaptation.

Aim and Methods: A cross-sectional, correlational research study guided by the Roy Adaptation Model was developed to explore adaptation in new RNs.  Eleven independent variables were modeled with four measures of adaptation: acute occupational fatigue, chronic occupational fatigue, negative affect, and intent to stay in their current position for two years.   The New Registered Nurse Questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of 250 new registered nurses in North Carolina with a professional tenure of 52 weeks or less.  Data from 88 new registered nurses were included for analyses.   

Results: Participants reported a mean acute occupational fatigue score of 64.88 (SD = 19.69) out of a possible zero to 100.  The mean score for chronic occupational fatigue was 41.86 (SD = 23.13).  Of the eleven independent variables, only orientation status and perceived adjustment were statistically significant in their relationship with chronic occupational fatigue and negative affect.  The mean score for new RNs’ intent to stay in their current position for two years was 3.38 (SD = 1.39) on a scale of one (very unlikely) to five (very likely).   

Implications: The results of this study suggest that new RNs are experiencing a compromised adaptive response.  Nursing leaders will demonstrate a moral commitment to new RNs when they target resources toward understanding this phenomenon more fully and use that knowledge to facilitate new RNs’ adaptation.