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Dealing with transition shock

Dealing with transition shock

As a new graduate nurse and/or midwife, you are likely to experience some difficulty adjusting to each new rotation, especially in the first few months of your program.

This is known as ‘transition shock’ which describes new graduates’ expectations of themselves colliding with the reality of the demands of their responsibilities and workload.

Combined with shift work (particularly night-shift) and an ever-changing roster, you may find yourself asking ‘what have I gotten myself into?’.

It is completely normal to feel this way. Inability to cope is one of the leading causes of graduate dissatisfaction, burnout and leaving the profession entirely. Which is why you should learn to recognise transition shock early so you can seek support and guidance to help you through.

It’s important to be gentle with yourself and know you are not expected to know everything.

Signs you have transition shock

Most graduates begin to experience transition shock after the orientation and supernumerary period has finished, and the daily grind sets in.

Common signs to watch for include:

  1. feelings of anxiousness
  2. fear of failure
  3. inadequacy and ‘imposter syndrome’
  4. isolation
  5. pessimism and/or
  6. fatigue.

Managing transition shock

There are various strategies new graduates can undertake to reduce and recover from transition shock and build resilience.

Debriefing and reflection

Participating in facilitated debriefing and/or clinical supervision sessions offered by your employer will provide an outlet for you to gain perspective as well as realising your feelings are shared by other new graduates.

Senior staff and preceptors understand you are a novice and will need support to manage new and complex situations, so speak up! Your preceptor/s can provide you with feedback, clinical support and setting achievable goals to define clinical expectations. All of these can reduce your feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

Socialising with new colleagues

Catching up with fellow graduates and participating in team social events can build a sense of comradery and belonging.

Just remember to be mindful of privacy and confidentiality when engaging in social activities with colleagues, including social media interaction.


Access counselling services such as Nursing and Midwifery Health Program (which is staffed by nurses who understand the profession/s) or your employer’s employee assistance program. Counsellors can provide you with the skills to develop resilience and coping strategies for personal and professional issues.


Learn some new self-care practices such as spending time with friends and family, eating well, optimising sleep, exercising, meditation, rest and relaxation, and participating in enjoyable activities or hobbies. Plan out annual leave well in advance so you have your breaks to look forward to.

Actively seeking support and maintaining your work/life balance, gives yourself the best chance to recover or avoid from transition shock.

Remember, even the most experienced nurse and/or midwife is still learning every day.

Experience comes with time and clinical exposure.

It’s not easy but with patience, persistence and celebrating the milestones, you will achieve confidence with your new career.

References and further reading