Newly qualified nurses

Newly qualified nurse? Our network can help you adapt to your new role

The RCN’s revamped NQN network has a vision for peer support and getting your voices heard

The RCNs revamped NQN network has a new vision for peer support and ensuring your voices are heard

Many NQNs say they feel overwhelmed in their first nursing roles Picture: Nathan Clarke

The RCN Newly Qualified Nurse Network, launched in November 2018, started out as a Facebook page offering a place for newly qualified nurses (NQNs) to support each other online.

I was nearing the end of my second year of training at the time, and it was good to know there was a plan to support us in transitioning from student to registered nurse.

Tackling feeling of loss and abandonment felt by newly qualified nurses

I joined the RCN when I started my nursing degree in March 2017 and became

...

The RCN’s revamped NQN network has a new vision for peer support and ensuring your voices are heard

Many NQNs say they feel overwhelmed in their first nursing roles Picture: Nathan Clarke

The RCN Newly Qualified Nurse Network, launched in November 2018, started out as a Facebook page offering a place for newly qualified nurses (NQNs) to support each other online.

I was nearing the end of my second year of training at the time, and it was good to know there was a plan to support us in transitioning from student to registered nurse.

Tackling feeling of loss and abandonment felt by newly qualified nurses

I joined the RCN when I started my nursing degree in March 2017 and became a student information officer shortly after. In early 2019, I became the student member of the RCN Trade Union Committee, taking part in student committee meetings.

The NQN network came under the remit of the RCN UK students’ committee and, although we wanted to develop it further, we didn’t have a tangible plan. So in October 2019, I joined forces with then student committee chair Craig Davidson to get the project moving.

Finding out what students want

Craig and I spent months talking to students and NQNs about the transition from student to practising nurse and what they felt would make the process easier.

One common theme that emerged was the feeling of loss and abandonment people experienced as newly qualified staff members. Many of those we spoke to said they missed the support from universities and placement areas and being part of a peer group they could easily identify with.

They wanted a single source of information and a safe place where they could ask for advice and support on anything – from how to find evidence-based literature without a university library to how to read their payslip.

Relaunching the network and beginning careers during the global pandemic

It quickly became clear that many of the things people were asking for already existed in the RCN infrastructure, they just didn’t know about them. The RCN has a fantastic library resource, for example, as well as great coaching available to members and access to training.

The feedback also showed that there was no clear avenue for NQNs’ voices to be heard in the RCN. While the NQN network falls within the scope of the students’ committee, the issues NQNs want to campaign on don’t always – issues such as a minimum level of preceptorship for all, and an uplift in salary once preceptorship is complete.

These were not being brought forward because there was no united platform giving NQNs a clear voice in the RCN.

What the new network can offer NQNs

The first six months of 2020 were a whirlwind mix of finishing our courses, getting our first jobs and starting them in the middle of a global pandemic, all while finalising the details for the new network.

In June, we re-launched as RCN Newly Qualified Nurses, co-led by myself and Kendal Moran, a final-year student at Bournemouth University and current student member of the RCN professional nursing committee.

‘We want to hear from you, the newly or soon-to-be newly qualified registered nurse. How can we help you in your new roles? What would you like our Tweetchats to cover or our podcast guests to discuss?’

We provide support from six months preregistration throughout preceptorship and have a total of 15 curators – a mix of final-year students and NQNs from across the UK and from all four nursing fields.

This diverse group has shown passion and enthusiasm for the project, despite the current challenges, writing blogs about their experiences as NQNs and offering advice and support to others.

Why guidance, community and online resources are so important now

We launched the network on Twitter on 1 June and within two days we had more than 1,000 followers. We now have almost 2,000 followers, and our tweets have been met with enthusiasm from RCN staff as well as NQNs and those who support them in practice.

Although we hadn’t planned to re-launch the network during a pandemic, the circumstances gave us even more motivation. Starting a new role at any time is challenging but, with many of our personal and professional support networks on hold due to COVID-19, it can be even more isolating.

With so much support moving online, it is important that NQNs have somewhere to go where they can access help and advice, and ensure their voices are being heard in the RCN.

As well as starting the Twitter account, we have increased the membership numbers of the Facebook peer support group and ensured that the RCN Newly Qualified Nurses Handbook is available online and free to everyone, whether you are an RCN member or not.

Discussing the issues NQNs tell us matter

As well as signposting NQNs to what is already available to them as RCN members, we have a full agenda of things to discuss as a working group. These issues, which have come from the membership, include minimum preceptorship standards, pay and how NQNs are identified as such within their workplaces.

We have started a series of Tweetchats where people can share their views on different topics, such as the support required in the first few weeks of your first staff nurse post, and Craig and I are also hosting a podcast – Retaining the Passion – where we will discuss all things NQN, including our own journeys.

We hope to shine a light on the important issues affecting the nursing profession and wider society, and our exciting line-up of guests includes RCN congress chair BJ Waltho, London South Bank University senior lecturer Calvin Moorley and RCN students committee chair Jessica Sainsbury.

Most importantly, we want to hear from you, the newly or soon-to-be newly qualified registered nurse. How can we help you in your new roles? What would you like our Tweetchats to cover or our podcast guests to discuss?

We want this generation of nurses to become a united team, who can speak collectively with passion and take the nursing profession and the RCN forwards. Join us on this exciting new journey.

View our COVID-19 resource centre


Clare Manley qualified in March and now works as a community mental health nurse and care co-ordinator at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust

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