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The performance and politics of practice for New Graduate Nurses

Publication Date
  • 111099 Nursing Not Elsewhere Classified
  • New Graduate Nurse
  • Transition
  • Performance
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Education


The change from nursing student to Registered Nurse (RNs) is both a desirable and anticipated event for New Graduate Nurses (NGNs). Having completed their formal education, most NGNs approach the threshold of their professional career with mixed emotions. While excited about the future and eagerly awaiting the commencement of employment, many are aware that this change also signifies a time of personal upheaval, professional insecurity and further personal learning. In the nursing professions’ enthusiasm to facilitate a smooth passage for NGNs a vast literature now addresses preparation-for-practice degrees, as well as the perceived workplace deficits and support needs of NGNs. However, the importance this change from working as a student to working as a NGN is not well conceptualised, theorised or understood as this largely instrumental literature essentially reduces the problematisation of the NGN transition experience to the problematisation of the individual by identifying NGNs as ‘the’ problem. Subsequently it fails to expose or challenge the normative assumptions underpinning processes that have formerly been considered solutions, or, the impact of such processes in a workplace that frames itself as “supportive”. Conspicuously absent is an exploration of how the NGN role is performed by former students, now beginning RNs undergoing the very personal transition of “becoming registered nurses”. Using Goffman’s (1956) theorisation of performance in everyday life exploring how process and meaning in mundane interactions present themselves in the “regular” lives of people at large, and Margaret Archer’s (2000) work emphasising the significance of the inner dialogue for managing the emotions that emerge out of situations that confront us, this paper draws upon data collected during a study of NGNs’ experience of transition to practice (Malouf 2010). It focuses on an emergent understanding of the need to differentiate the performance of ‘student’ from that of ‘NGN’ role. Further, it explores how these roles have become conflated into a conceptual continuum and viewed as a slide from student to NGN performance, rather than a significant moment of change involving roles that need to be distinctly defined as a necessary precursor to enhancing and supporting the professional and personal development of beginning practitioners.

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