Nurse managers face an uphill battle in retaining quality nursing staff. Nurses enter the profession with mixed views on how nursing should be. Once nurses become entrenched in the role of nurse, they may suffer a rude awakening when they discover how hard this profession can be. Another challenge is nurses who have been on the job for a few years can burn out on caregiving and leave the profession altogether. Although nurses can be found in nearly every aspect of the working world, facilities spend tens of thousands of dollars on recruiting and training new nurses. A 2014 study, the “RN Work Project” funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found first year nurses left the job at a rate of 17.5%. After two years, that number jumped to 33.5%. The longer a new nurse stays on the job, the better the facility is able to recoup their costs and build a strong, stable nursing staff.
So, what can nurse managers do to increase staff retention? I’d like to offer some supportive ideas to nursing leaders below:
1) Interview every staff member on ways to improve. Many facilities conduct satisfaction surveys, but if they don’t, do your own survey. Don’t print out a form and leave it in their mailbox and expect honest answers, or even that the staff will answer. Conduct face-to-face interviews. Let your staff know ahead of time what you’ll be discussing in the interview — 10 to 15 minutes should be sufficient. Survey your staff on what makes them want to stay and ask how what more they need to cement their feelings about your facility and the job. Many times, just asking and seeing some improvement demonstrates that you’re at least listening and trying and helps staff have faith in your efforts.
2) Harness the unique talents of your staff. Every member of your nursing staff has strengths and weaknesses. In addition to observing and making your own determinations as to what their strengths are, ask them. Perhaps there are even non-nursing talents the staff has that the facility can use for something other than direct patient care. Any job can become boring and mundane. Giving staff the opportunity for a bit of variety in their nursing role, helps them build pride in themselves and their career, which also benefits the facility and patients.
3) Build relationships with a few key people. As a nurse manager, you need rapport with your staff and a few key people that you can trust to bring issues to light that you wouldn’t otherwise know about. That sounds like the role of a snitch, but that’s not what it means. These are your charge nurses, shift managers, etc. You need people you can rely on to help you implement new systems and practices, to identify dangerous practices, and to disclose complicated issues such as difficult physician-to-nurse interactions or nurse bullying.
What did we miss? I’d love to hear additional suggestions from you in the comments below on how we can help your nursing teams love the profession of nursing and keep them in the field.
About the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within’, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.