Many healthcare facilities are experiencing a strained availability of nurses due to multiple factors, including decreased student enrollment in nursing schools and difficulty retaining existing nurses. Furthermore, the challenge of retaining nursing staff during the summer months is even greater. The summer season often comes with increased employee vacations which can disrupt workflow and increase patient-to-nurse ratios, which, in turn, impacts the quality of care available to patients.
In this blog post, we'll share tips and staffing solutions for enhancing summer employee retention to avoid any gaps in patient care this summer. From effective vacation scheduling to providing perks for team members working through the summer, there is a range of actions healthcare facilities can take to motivate and retain nursing professionals.
Effective Summer Vacation Scheduling
Summer is a popular time for nurses to take vacations and enjoy well-deserved time off. However, healthcare organizations must implement effective vacation scheduling practices to minimize disruptions and maintain a stable workforce. Here are some strategies leadership teams can consider:
Plan in Advance
Encourage nurses to submit their vacation requests well in advance, allowing ample time for scheduling and adjustments. This approach helps avoid last-minute conflicts and will enable supervisors to plan staffing schedules accordingly.
Utilize a Fair and Transparent System
Implement a fair and transparent vacation scheduling system that considers seniority, rotating shifts, and employee preferences. Clearly communicate the guidelines to ensure everyone understands the process and feels it is fair, enabling them to enjoy time off while ensuring the facility still operates as usual without compromising patient care.
Factor in Peak Periods and Plan Accordingly
Identify the peak periods of patient demand in the facility and adjust vacation schedules accordingly. By strategically managing vacations during slower periods, you can minimize the impact on patient care and ensure adequate staffing levels. Consider how your facility can incentivize nurses to take time off during slower periods. This will vary, depending on your policies and what you can offer, but it can help to ensure that not all nurses seek to take time off around the same time during the summer.
Enhancing Summer Retention
Beyond effective vacation scheduling, there are several methods facilities can adopt to retain nurses. Below are some additional strategies to enhance employee satisfaction and promote retention:
- Offer flexible schedules: Recognize the need for work-life balance during summer. Consider offering flexible schedules or alternative shift options, such as compressed workweeks or shorter shifts, to accommodate employees' commitments and create a positive work environment.
- Provide incentives: Introduce incentives for nurses who choose to work during high-demand periods or voluntarily adjust their vacation plans. This can include additional pay, bonuses, or extra time off in the future.
- Offer professional growth and development opportunities: These can include workshops, training programs, or continuing education courses. Investing in your nurses' career advancement not only enhances their skills but also demonstrates your commitment to their growth and job satisfaction.
- Encourage a positive workplace culture: Create a supportive, inclusive work environment that values open communication, collaboration, and teamwork. Encourage feedback from staff and implement their suggestions whenever possible. Recognize and appreciate the hard work and dedication of your nursing team regularly.
- Recognize employee achievements: Create a culture that publicly celebrates & appreciates star employees. This culture will drive productivity, motivation, satisfaction, and loyalty, which all help increase nurse retention.
Reducing turnover is critical to ensuring all systems of your healthcare facility continue operating smoothly during the summer months and year-round. Nurses tend to be appreciated during National Nurses Week, but showing our appreciation to nurses at all times will show them that their work is valued and essential in supporting the health and well-being of all.
While parties and thank-you gifts are always appreciated, it's more sustainable to build this appreciation into the core systems of your facility through policies and practices that respect nurses, respond quickly and effectively to their challenges or suggestions, and proactively work to ensure the work environment is safe and supportive.
Final Thoughts | Effective Summer Employee Retention
Nurses are experiencing burnout like never before. Amid a global pandemic that places additional strain on nurses, including patient violence toward nurses and the existing nursing shortage—which means nurses are often taking on more patients and may have expanded responsibilities in the workplace—it's becoming increasingly difficult for healthcare facilities to retain nurses.
This pattern is occurring globally, with alarming numbers of nurses leaving the profession before retirement. Human resources processes such as hiring nurses can often be costly and time-intensive, so it's always best for facilities to focus on retaining their existing teams. By implementing effective vacation scheduling practices and prioritizing employee satisfaction, healthcare organizations can use staffing solutions to navigate the challenges of the summer season more efficiently and enhance summer employee retention.