How Can Nurse Leaders Support the Next Generation in 2024?

Thirty five percent of nurses are novices. Young nurses can become frustrated when they’re not ready to work in some clinical settings if there are additional stressors. An unpleasant workplace, especially as a newer nurse, may lead to overall dissatisfaction, low team morale, and increased turnover.  

With continuing unprecedented retirements and healthcare landscape change, 2024 is the time to focus on supporting the next generation of nurses. How can you do that this year?

The nurse transition process has changed with so many fresh faces. New graduate nurses are being trained by nurses with only a few years of experience themselves, so the experience gap is wide. Some suggestions to assist with the transition are? competency-based orientation, residency programs, and recognizing accomplishments with career support from the top-down. Because there are many transition-into-practice issues, think of ways to bring trusted advisors to inexperienced nurses and not just rely on preceptor type programs.

Systems should also encourage nurse managers to play an active role as mentor. New nurse graduates benefit from managers who provide clear expectations, create a healthy environment, and recognize educational needs. Consider teaching managers to develop coaching skills.

Teach young nurses how communication comes in many forms, like face-to-face, through technology, documentations, or even how coworkers present themselves. NCharge®: “Nurses Learning to Lead” has several courses that use real-life healthcare case studies and videos that help nurses practice effective communications. It also covers topics like delegation, team leadership, and critical thinking issues in the charge nurse role.

In emphasizing communication to younger nurses, try to lead by example. Especially in complicated times, transparent communication is key. When leaders don’t communicate, staff will fill in gaps with misinformation. For high performing nurses who may be your future leaders, consider holding a roundtable on how to communicate difficult topics. They may help you consider diverse communications styles, or help you choose the right words to communicate and receive feedback from staff. And it would prepare them to think through how they would handle issues if they were in charge.

The right coach or mentor can help young nurses see how their contributions help the hospital achieve goals. Mentoring can help encourage continuous learning and can teach young nurses about emotional intelligence. There is nothing in a textbook that can replace real-life experiences of an experienced nurse leader, but situation-based mentoring can help.

In 2024, you can also help young nurses to build connections. Introduce young staff to fellow nurses, physicians, and administrators that you have relationships with. Consider introducing nurses to associations they can join to network, or that match a nurse’s specialty.

Think about sharing relevant examples and experiences with novice nurses and consider sharing work examples from when you were a young nurse. Let nurses know they are not the first ones to make a mistake. Share how certain learning experiences shaped your career, especially experiences from the start of your nursing career.

New nurses face stress and dilemma in their first years. They may make choices that impact their careers down the line or quit healthcare altogether. Try to be a trustworthy sounding board for these nurses. Offer confidentiality so they can ask for advice on dilemmas. If a slip-up happens at work, don’t tear down new nurses in public, and identify suggestions for what could have been done differently.

In 2024, give compliments when appropriate. Maybe a young nurse handled a difficult patient really well or exceled in a technique or practice. Give praise in public if warranted so others can learn too. Or you could ask new nurses for their own ideas on what they need to improve on to make feedback more collaborative. For growth you can even encourage professional associations or additional certification workshops.

Career mapping can provide nurses with clearer direction and a realistic time scale for achieving goals. Help nurses to be positioned toward an environment that match their level of competency, interests, and career goals. For nurses who want to pivot careers the issue isn’t lack of opportunity as there are so many to choose from! Some nurses may favor a better work schedule and look to urgent care or behavioral for example. Others may pivot into information management or nursing research.. If a nurse is considering change, ask them critical questions like why do you want to change? Are you thinking about this just to escape a short-term challenge? Are you thinking about additional training or certifications? Do you want more or less contact with patients? In 2024, show nurses career navigation tools available to them and offer career support.

For many young nurses, the first opportunity for advancement toward leadership is the Charge Nurse role. Leading and delegating to peers, especially to older peers, is stressful. Think about tools and resources like NCharge® that could have helped you in your first leadership role. Consider offering Charge Nurse leadership development tools and practice. It’s not solely the responsibility of tenured nurses and nurse executives to support young nurses; fostering the growth of the next generation should be a collective effort, involving the entire organization.

Support Experiences for Novice Nurses in the Workplace: A Qualitative Analysis, National Library of Medicine, May 9, 2023, Bahareh Najafi, BScN, MScN, PhD1 and Ahmad Nasiri, BScN, MScN, PhD

Helping New Nurses Bridge the School-to-Practice Gap, Nurse Educator, HealthLeaders Media

How academia and practice can partner to prepare new nurses, Wolters Kluwer, May 18, 2023

10 Ways to Help Support New Nurses, Deborah Swanson, Daily Nurse, March 13, 2019.

How nurse leaders can support the next generation of nurses, Wolters Kluwer, Lenore Cortez, MSN, RNC, November 22, 2022