Nursing has long been a respected and meaningful profession. However, despite its esteemed reputation in society, healthcare facilities are struggling with high nursing turnover rates due to a lack of potential educators and workforce distribution. The most common reasons for high turnover include a toxic workplace, working long and unsociable hours, limited career advancement opportunities, and poor communication between management and staff.
Without a doubt, the healthcare industry is currently dealing with a shortage of registered nurses, with reports stating that the situation will only continue to worsen all the way to 2030. Many nursing schools across America are simply not recruiting and training enough new nurses to meet the increasing demand for care. To make matters worse, the current nursing shortage is intensifying due to the higher demand for long term care, as the population of America continues to age.
Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that most of the current nursing workforce is approaching retirement. It is estimated that by 2030, approximately one million registered nurses will leave the profession. As these problems persist and worsen, registered nurses across the country are feeling the strain brought on by the increased workload, resulting in job dissatisfaction and ultimately forcing them to abandon the nursing profession.
If long term care leaders do not deal with the increasing discontent in the nursing community, there will be a mass exodus from the nursing profession, which will lead to a national crisis. Now is the time for healthcare management to assess the industry’s shortcomings and introduce inventive nurse retention strategies to retain their existing staff, avoid diminishing the quality of care, and keep nurses content so as to avoid discouraging others from joining the nursing profession.
Addressing Nursing Staff Retention
It is imperative for healthcare providers to maintain high nursing staff retention levels to ensure quality care, but there are also considerable financial implications associated with staff turnover, particularly for registered nurses. A recent 2022 NSI report noted that a facility’s margins can be significantly affected by the turnover of a registered bedside nurse. These turnovers can cost a facility approximately $46,100 per nurse.
In 2021, there was an alarmingly high rate of registered nurse turnover due to the increasing patient-to-nurse ratios and higher occupancy levels that led to adverse patient care outcomes. Registered nurses who recently left the profession cited emotional and physical exhaustion, burnout, and staff fatigue as reasons for why they left.
Fortunately, several federal and state initiatives have been implemented to address the registered nurse shortage. For instance, the UW System Economic Development Incentive Grant started a $3.2 million initiative at the University of Wisconsin. It aims to offer fellowships and forgiveness loans for future nurse faculties that agree to take on and teach nurses other nurses in the state following graduation. This program was launched in 2014 to preempt the predicted shortage of 20,000 registered nurses by 2035.
Other notable initiatives include the 2010 expansion of Nursing CAS and the national nursing application service. The service is currently linked with 275 schools that offer a range of degrees, such as nursing diplomas, associate degrees, baccalaureates, master’s, and doctoral programs. One of the primary reasons for this expansion is to ensure that all nursing schools are filled with nursing candidates, thus increasing the number of trained registered nurses across the country.
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5 Tips on How To Retain Employees in Healthcare
There are multiple approaches that inform facilities how to retain employees in healthcare. Some of the most popular strategies include a combination of listening and employee motivation. Below are strategies long term care leaders can employ to retain more of their staff:
- Use Exit Surveys – Exit surveys offer facilities a chance to understand why registered nurses leave their positions. Exit surveys are not used to convince the nurses to change their minds. Rather, they offer brief and analyzable data so facilities can identify what areas they can improve to retain others. They also allow past employees to give honest feedback about the facility’s work environment so leaders can determine actionable insights and take the necessary steps to improving working conditions.
- Anticipate Burnout – The recent pandemic has been a cause of concern for patients, seniors, facilities, and their staff. Before the pandemic, many long term care facilities were already overstretched with high patient-to-nurse ratios. The pandemic only heightened the problem, adding more stress and higher workloads, leading to greater staff burnout.
Contrary to popular belief, staff burnout is more commonly caused by management’s lack of appreciation and failure to listen to nurse grievances than it is by a high workload. When leadership refuses to acknowledge employees’ ideas and concerns, it leads to discontent and the perception that one is undervalued and underappreciated. This results in staff burnout and high nurse turnovers.
A simple solution is for management to encourage open communication with their staff to voice any discontent or offer solutions to improve their work satisfaction and resilience. Another way to avoid staff burnout is to improve the facility’s workflow processes with efficient long term care EHR software systems that automate administrative duties and replace time-consuming paperwork with more efficient electronic tools, saving nurses hundreds of hours every year.
- Acknowledge Nurses’ Contributions – The nursing profession is centered around compassion and caring for others. But nurses also want to feel valued for their contributions, as they make a difference to their residents and the community. Thus, management would do well to acknowledge the hard work their nurses do. Sending personalized thank you notes or thoughtful gifts is a great way to show appreciation to nurses.
- Provide Some Downtime – The nursing profession is highly stressful, especially when nurses are dealing with chronic illnesses and acute health conditions. Other factors, such as high patient ratios and limited budgets and resources, can also cause nurses to feel stressed.
To counter these problems, facilities should organize “renewal rooms” that allow nurses to take short breaks during their shifts. These usually provide an ambient and tranquil environment so nurses can de-stress when needed. Holistic techniques like meditation and yoga can also help to manage stress and burnout, according to recent research. Therefore, if the budget allows, the facility should organize meditation or yoga instructors to visit the facility and teach nurses effective meditation techniques that they can practice during their breaks.
- Mentoring – Mentoring has proven to be a practical and easy to implement nurse retention strategy, as it helps to create a positive working environment in a facility. In particular, mentoring relationships improve interactions between new and experienced nurses. Experienced nurses mentor new nurses with invaluable coaching, teaching, and role modeling, all of which help facilitate a nurse’s progression and professional development.
Mentoring relationships also offer support for nurses at all levels and provide an optimistic perspective for young nurses in their future careers. Therefore, it is beneficial for facilities to invest in and promote mentoring programs to ensure that the quality of care is consistent during periods in which the older generation passes the torch to the younger generation.
The Importance of Implementing Nurse Retention Strategies
While management needs to balance the organization’s finances, ultimately a facility cannot run efficiently or effectively without sufficient staff and registered nurses. Research shows that a positive work environment will increase job satisfaction and staff retention, which is why facilities must look internally and assess what improvements can be made to retain its current nurses and workforce.
Nurse retention strategies are not necessarily complicated. Most nurses just want to know and feel appreciated for their contributions. Monetary gifts are an excellent way to show appreciation, but never underestimate the power of personalized words and kind gestures. These retention strategies are more effective and will go a long way toward building a great work environment. Ultimately, it’s those little tokens of appreciation that will be remembered during the most stressful times.