Mentoring our early career nurses/midwives – inspire them for the future!!

Mrs Sue Hughes1

1Tasmanian Health Service, Hobart, Australia


Hospitals and health systems across the world are facing shortages of skilled nurses/midwives. There is an exodus of experienced nurses & midwives leaving the workforce mainly through retirement and those having mid-career changes. Nursing and Midwifery leaders are having to rely on the influx of novice nurses/midwives entering our workforce to fill vacant positions. Added to this scenario is the rise in the complexity of care, increase in the older patient population, chronic co-morbidities and a  growth in mental health issues. These are compounding to the problems facing the workforce. As a result, it is becoming more multifaceted for the novice nurse/midwife, transition to practice.

New graduates, are abruptly exposed and challenged to adapt to the demands of nursing work, including shifts, mental and physical tensions, culture differences, exposure to traumatic situations, time pressures and new situations, daily. Without a supportive environment these new graduates are vulnerable to leaving the profession and wasting their dedicated years preparing for their career.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, individuals cannot reach their full potential if they are struggling with basic needs. Studies have shown that burnout and compassion fatigue are major reasons why early career nurses, transitioning to practice, leave the nursing profession, due to the stressful process of change. (Chang and Daly, 2012). Consequently, developing resilience and confidence in practice early in a graduate’s life is important for their health and wellbeing, and for keeping them within the profession. We need them!!

There are many strategies that can put into place to support their transition into the workforce. This presentation provides an insight into being a mentor and a mentee, building a collaborative relationship to support an early career nurse. It challenges all nurses/midwives to take up this critical role and invest in novice nurses/midwives. The importance of building resilience in the early stages of their career is vital to ensure that the graduate is inspired to stay in the profession and be part of the workforce for the future.

*Chang E., Daly J. (2012). Transitions in Nursing Preparing for Professional Practice 34th Edn., Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier.



Having started her career as a paediatric nurse at Great Ormond Street Paediatric Hospital, in London, Sue moved to Tasmania and has diversified her roles and experiences into education, management and project work, across all facets of practice.

In 2010 Sue was awarded “Australian Institute of Project Management Tasmanian Award for best Tasmania Small Project”

‘The Neonatal & Paediatric Intensive Care Enhancement Project’

Some of her main experiences have included:

  • Nurse Educator, Program and Staff Development Coordinator for the Women’s and Children’s Services
  • Operationalising workforce reforms including scopes of practice, workforce planning & development
  • Nurse representative on the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (Tasmania)
  • Program Officer for the Clinical Redesign Program in partnership with the Tasmanian Health Service and the University of Tasmania.
  • Management, coordination and facilitation of implementing the 2016 Nurses and Midwifery Enterprise Bargaining Agreement across Tasmania.
  • Currently she remains in the Office of the EDONM assisting the Nursing and Midwifery Executive apply state-wide consistency in practice and operational policy.