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Dealing with transition shock

Dealing with transition shock

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As a new graduate, you are likely to experience some difficulty adjusting to your new role, 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 responsibilities and workload.

Combined with shift work (particularly nightshift) an ever-changing roster and starting a new career in health during a pandemic you may find yourself asking ‘what have I gotten myself into?’.

It is completely normal to feel this way.  Having difficulties coping is one of the leading causes of graduate dissatisfaction, burnout and leaving the profession entirely. This 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 kind to 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!

Ask for feedback. Preceptors and graduate program coordinators can provide you with feedback on how you are going, offer clinical support and advice for setting achievable goals to define clinical expectations. You can also email the ANMF Graduate and Final Year Officer Alice Pemberton.

These resources can reduce your feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

Getting to know your new colleagues

Catching up with your colleagues can build a sense of comradery, belonging, and provide a good opportunity to debrief together.

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 a free and confidential counselling service run by nurses and midwives who provide tailored emotional support.  You can also contact your employer’s employee assistance program. Counsellors can provide you with the skills to develop resilience and coping strategies for personal and professional issues.


This job can be a tough slog. Learning and maintaining some good self-care practice can make all the difference. Whether it’s walking the dog, catching up with friends and family, eating well, getting in the tub, dancing in the kitchen or optimising sleep – doing anything that makes you feel good and is a way of resting and relaxing.

Plan out annual leave well in advance so you have your breaks to look forward to. Actively seek support and maintain your work/life balance, to give yourself the best chance to recover from or avoid experiencing transition shock.

Remember, even the most experienced nurses and midwives are 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