Aims and objectives. To identify job stress and intention to quit in newly-graduated nurses during the first three months of their work at two different levels of hospitals and to understand factors that may influence their retention. Background. Given the current nursing shortage, retention of newly-graduated nurses is crucial. Design. A cross-sectional research design was adopted. Methods. Newly-graduated nurses' perceptions of job stress and intention to quit at different time periods during the first three months in addition to related factors were measured using structured questionnaires in two levels of hospitals in central Taiwan. Results. Subjects experienced somewhat stressful conditions (Mean = 2·89, SD 0·62) and 31·5% intended to quit. Job stress was the highest at 0-1 month and the intention to quit was highest at 1-2 months. The intention-to-quit group had significantly higher job stress with regard to roles/interpersonal relationships than the intention-to-stay group [t(144) = 2·65, p = 0·009]. Logistic regressions indicated that higher job stress (odds ratio = 2·26; 95% CI 1·14-4·51), working at a medical centre (odds ratio = 3·61; 95% CI 1·10-10·92) and not having had a clinical practicum in the working hospital (odds ratio = 2·41; 95% CI 1·01-5·77) were significant predictors associated with the intention to quit. Conclusions. Newly-graduated nurses perceived moderate job stress which significantly influenced their intention to quit. Nursing administrators should assist newly-graduated nurses in role adaptation and interpersonal relationships particularly to those who had previously worked only in medical centres and had never done a clinical practicum in the hospital. Relevance to clinical practice. Our findings provide concrete directions to nursing administrators in developing a stress-alleviation programme to decrease newly-graduate nurses' job stress, to facilitate them successful entry into practice and to decrease their intention to quit.