How to Improve Nurse Retention: 7 Tips to Get Started

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Written by
Lori Fuqua
February 13, 2024

Table of Contents

Are you facing frustrating nurse turnover at work and looking for concrete strategies to keep your hard-working staff happy and willing to stick around? 

You are one of many: hospitals and healthcare facilities all over are grappling with vacancies and nurses with an intention to leave. In this guide, we’ll review the top causes of clinician turnover and present you with actionable steps you can take to improve nurse retention.

What Is Nurse Retention?

Nurse retention refers to nurses who stay at their nursing jobs instead of leaving, which is referred to as turnover. Healthcare employee retention programs are a priority focus for many nurse leaders and facility administrators. 

As you better understand why nurses leave, you can more effectively develop strategies and implement any necessary changes to improve employee retention in your organization.

Why Is Nurse Retention Important?

Nurse retention is essential because nurse turnover drastically exacerbates the nursing shortage that has loomed for years over the industry. 

According to research by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), more than 250,000 nurses have left the industry since 2020, and another 800,000 expressed an "intent to leave." For more details about the large-scale research project, read our article "Nurse Burnout Threatens National Healthcare Security."

The nursing shortage is exacerbated by high turnover on two fronts: nursing turnover due to nurses leaving for other nursing jobs and nursing turnover as nurses leave the profession entirely. Operating a hospital or other healthcare facility with vacancies can be a struggle because if left unfilled for too long, the increased workload on nursing staff can lead to an uptick in turnover. 

Hospitals and healthcare facilities must prioritize nursing retention and implement strategies and changes to address the causes of turnover. Poor retention harms facilities, nurses, and the people of the community who depend upon them for healthcare services.

Common Causes for High Turnover

While not all nursing turnover is negatively motivated—people move, start families, go back to school, and so on—the ones that can be addressed are. After all, a thriving facility is one that can provide compassionate, quality healthcare services to its community, and isn't that at the heart of healthcare?

Frequently-cited motivations for turnover among nurses include:

  • Burnout
  • Understaffing and heavy workloads
  • Low job satisfaction and low autonomy
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of advancement opportunities or professional development

Take a look at your present nursing staff. Of the list of common causes, which of them apply to nurses currently or previously employed in your facility? For a more in-depth look at what your nursing staff face every shift, check out "What Are the Biggest Challenges Healthcare Workers Face?"

7 Strategies to Increase Healthcare Employee Retention

Improving nurse retention is not an insurmountable task but requires commitment, a willingness to listen, and an investment of time, energy, and finances. Here, we've compiled a list of seven nurse retention strategies that can serve as a starting point for you as you tailor an approach unique to your work cultures and nursing staff needs.

1. Understand the Root Causes Behind Nurse Turnover

Conduct anonymous surveys to gauge job satisfaction. While asking outright may prompt some to speak up, anonymity from management and peers is more likely to gather robust information for you to analyze. Ask open-ended questions that cover topics such as the following:

  • Communication: How is the communication at your facility among peers and between the varying levels of hierarchy?
  • Work culture: Does your nursing staff feel appreciated, respected, and recognized?
  • Nurse autonomy: Is your nursing staff empowered to practice to the full extent of their licensure, or are their facility policies in place that limit them?
  • Nurse support: Does your nursing staff feel supported by management staff? Are they interested in a form of mentorship?
  • Orientation: Does your nursing staff feel like the onboarding provided when they started was sufficient, or did they feel lost and alone in the beginning?
  • Hiring: Does the facility hiring process attract nurses with compatible values?

2. Invest in Staff Nurse Training and Development

Explore how your facility can adopt policies that support nurses in their training and professional development. Do you have systems in place to help with continued education? Do they receive approval for their requests for time off to attend nursing conferences? Is there money budgeted to help with tuition reimbursement?

3. Review Compensation and Benefits

How does your nursing staff feel about their salaries and benefits? Are you competitive with other facilities for similar positions and workloads? Aim to reduce financial strain that may cause nurses to consider other opportunities.

4. Offer Retention Incentives or Bonuses

Consider financial incentives such as a nurse retention bonus. A bonus structure based on tenure may encourage nurses to stay at facilities for more extended periods, thereby increasing the level of experience of your nursing staff. This strategy may also address senior staff's need for recognition or appreciation for their essential role in training and mentoring newer nurses.

5. Improve Communication and Feedback Channels

Work to ensure that downstream communication is clear and standardized, and create channels that guarantee nurses are listened to and their feedback is seriously considered.

6. Offer Wellness Programs and Mental Health Resources

Consider how your facility can support the well-being and mental health of your staff by exploring the following:

  • Do you have reporting, training, and intervention systems or procedures in place for workplace bullying? 
  • Are policies and procedures in place to handle workplace violence?
  • Do you routinely screen for burnout and offer resources and support?
  • Does your facility have a mentorship program for new staff?
  • Do you offer nurse wellness programs?

Work to 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.

7. Reduce Heavy Workloads with Flexible Staffing Solutions

Did you know it takes around 95 days to hire a registered nurse? With vacancies and shift call-offs, your nursing staff workload increases as the nurse-to-patient ratios often climb to accommodate, leading to increased burnout and turnover. 

Reduce the workload for full-time staff by exploring short-term solutions. Per diem nursing staff sourced from platforms such as Nursa can help flexibly support your facility when vacancies and call-offs arise.

Tailor Your Approach to Retaining Nurses

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to employee retention. Work culture, geographic location, compensation, and staffing levels lead to different situations. These strategies require planning and adaptation to your facility's needs. 

Address your near-term staffing shortages right away by posting shifts on Nursa. As per diem nursing staff help alleviate the workload, you can focus on the needs of your full-time nursing staff and develop strategies tailored to keep them where you want them—happy and healthy and working at your facility.

Sources:

Lori Fuqua
Blog published on:
February 13, 2024

Lori is a contributing copywriter at Nursa who creates compelling content focusing on location highlights, nurse licensing, compliance, community, and social care.

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