Innovation in retention for new graduates featured at Health Workforce Canada’s first pop-up

Two smiling nurses, one wearing pink scrubs, and one wearing blue scrubs

Our first virtual pop-up session focuses on retaining new graduates, with more than 65 participants from across the country – including health executives, managers, supervisors, frontline staff, and new graduates – learning about an approach from Rob Paquin, a registered nurse and researcher, who is asking people on the frontlines directly about their experience.

The innovative work​

Paquin’s research at Providence Health Care in British Columbia takes a four-phased approach to gaining a deep understanding of what new graduate nurses experience as they transition from school to work, although it’s a method he says could be applied to any health care profession. There are “problem focused” interviews with new nurses, interviews with educators and administrators, a survey, and finally  multiple Experience Based Co-Design (EBCD) workshops. Workshop participants were a mix of new graduate nurses and key decision makers, including the Chief Nursing Officer, executive directors and educators. Participants were asked to describe what they are seeing, feeling, and hearing as they enter the new and sometimes chaotic world of frontline nursing. Responses are recorded using an empathy map of their experience.

What Providence found was that new nurses — often in their first jobs, living in new cities and working night shifts for the first time — crave three things: 

  • Human connection
  • Mentorship 
  • Help understanding the non-clinical aspects of work, like how to understand and access benefits such as wellness programs and their pensions.

What does a new graduate experience with onboarding and up to the first three months of work?

What we learned

Paquin led participants through their own empathy mapping exercise, considering what a new graduate may be feeling, thinking, seeing, doing and hearing in their first three months of a new job. 

Five key findings:

1. Enhance emotional and social support

Recognize the emotional and social challenges new graduates face. Provide practical steps to access mental health resources and create peer support groups for social support.

2. Improve communication

Ensure clear communication on how to find supports, benefits and other areas of a new graduate nurse’s “hidden curriculum” to reduce chaos and confusion.

3. Onboarding programs

Develop onboarding programs that address new graduates’ professional and personal needs. Tailor these programs to help new graduates with the strain of coping with shift work and work-life balance.

4. Foster an inclusive and supportive culture

Encourage and reward staff to contribute to the culture of a more welcoming and supportive clinical environment. The staff experience improves with robust groups of new graduates.

5. Actionable feedback and continuous improvement

Ask directly for insights from new graduates to understand their evolving needs and challenges, then create solutions together to address the problems – relentlessly pursue improvement with new graduates, not just for them.

“There’s a high amount of stress for people. What can we do to change things so that they want to stay in nursing?

Rob Paquin

Key takeaways: