The aim of this research was to investigate newly qualified nurses (NQN) experiences of starting their career in the intensive care unit (ICU). The author also investigated the opinions of senior nurses from ICU in relation to NQN in ICU. Although not a new concept, NQN in ICU has little substantive research to support recruitment. There is a current demand to investigate this topic, because of retention of staff and a shortage of qualified nurses. This was a comparative, qualitative study using two forms of data collection. This study was conducted over two phases. Phase I, used semi-structured interviews with eight NQN, with one participant for the pilot study. PHASE II used a focus group to interview seven senior nurses in ICU. NQN experienced anxiety about time management, accountability and socialization. Senior nurses felt NQN coped well with the demanding aspects of ICU but were aware that preceptors are under a lot of pressure. They were concerned about NQN lack of hospital knowledge. The competency-based practice highlighted the importance of record keeping and its associated legal implications. NQN cope well with the complexity of ICU. Having student placements in this area seem to ease this transition and reduce some 'reality shock'. They therefore seem better equipped to deal with the steep learning curve.