Nurses are the lifeblood of the healthcare system, providing essential care and support to patients every day. However, the nursing profession faces a significant challenge of high nurse turnover rates leading to a nursing shortage. Nursing shortages have recently dominated headlines as these shortages create a high demand for registered nurses. Aside from hiring additional nurses, healthcare organizations are focusing on retention strategies to keep their existing nurses engaged and satisfied with their positions.
This blog post will explore employee retention strategies for healthcare facilities and other organizations that employ nurses. From fostering a positive work culture to flexible work hours, this article will share tactics to help create an environment where nurses thrive, leading to improved patient care and long-term commitment.
Why Is There a Nursing Shortage in the US?
Understanding why there is a nursing shortage is critical to begin tackling the issue. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses, nursing school enrollment is quickly declining, and nursing schools are struggling with the capacity to meet the projected demand for nursing professionals.
Nursing school programs lack sufficient resources—including faculty, budget, equipment, space, and clinical preceptors—to accommodate nursing applicants, which is why nearly 92,000 qualified applications were turned away from nursing schools in the US between 2021 to 2022.
Additionally, a large part of the existing nursing workforce is retiring or close to retiring. Presently, the average registered nurse in America is fifty-two years old, and one million nurses are projected to retire from the workforce by 2030, leaving a massive gap in nursing, particularly as the rising aging population and chronic disease population have increased demand for nurses.
Given the stress and burnout associated with nursing, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which placed unprecedented demands on frontline workers and changed the nursing profession, many nurses are looking to leave the nursing profession altogether.
How to Improve Nurse Retention
Healthcare facilities can implement the following tips to improve employee retention strategies for nurses:
- Establish a nurse residency program as part of the nurse staffing plan to support new nurses during orientation and onboarding, fostering a healthy and collaborative culture between experienced nurses and new nurses, as research demonstrates a direct link between residency programs and nurse retention.
- Establish a work culture that promotes professional development. This supports nurses in their career journeys and improves their caregiving skills. By mapping out potential career journeys for nurses, facilities can help them envision their long-term future at the healthcare facility, which should include increased responsibilities and compensation, as well as promotions.
- Offer competitive compensation and benefits packages to remain an attractive place for nurses. It is essential to practice pay equity as a matter of principle. Any pay discrepancies can cause numerous problems, including employee dissatisfaction.
- Invest in staffing for an adequate nurse-to-patient staffing ratio to avoid overworking nurses. Establishing a work environment that promotes a healthy work-life balance for nurses will help nurses avoid anxiety and stress related to their jobs.
- Use exit surveys and interviews to get feedback on nurses' experiences and understand the factors that make nurses leave. Ensure you have a strategy to rectify issues that arise as recurring challenges to retaining nurses.
How to Keep Your Nurses Happy
The following retention strategies will help keep nurses satisfied at work to support adequate nurse staffing and increase nursing retention rates.
- Offer a flexible work schedule. An unhealthy work-life balance is one of the leading challenges with nurse retention, which facilities can avoid by limiting overtime shifts to promote the health and wellness of nurses and prevent them from seeking a more balanced lifestyle by choosing to work for a more flexible employer or take on local, high-paying per diem work shifts.
- Acknowledge nurses' contributions and achievements to make them feel valued and appreciated for their hard work. Personalized acknowledgments and rewards can be effective in keeping nurses satisfied—but this must come hand-in-hand with perks—such as a retention bonus—competitive compensation, and adequate support.
- Provide downtime and tranquil spaces for nurses to take short breaks during their shifts. If the organization has the budget capacity, it can invest in rooms for nurses and facilitate holistic sessions or training for wellness activities such as yoga and meditation.
- Promote workplace safety and establish strategies to deal with conflict and bullying. An average of fifty-seven nurses are assaulted every day, and many nurses have reported being bullied in the workplace. To tackle this, organizations should establish and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for bullying with clear consequences, hire sufficient security staff, offer support to nurses who experience violence or bullying, and train staff on de-escalation methods—especially in emergency departments and psychiatric units.
Final Thoughts | Nursing Retention Strategies
Nurses are the backbone of hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities, providing round-the-clock support, expertise, and comfort to patients. However, with high turnover rates, healthcare organizations are challenged in how to best support their patients. To avoid nursing shortages, healthcare facilities can take initiatives to retain nurses by compensating nurses competitively, creating a healthy work environment, supporting nurses in envisioning themselves at the healthcare facility long-term, and many other ideas presented in this blog post. These nurse staffing strategies help avoid a nursing shortage, which ultimately leads to better patient care.