As the global pandemic continues to challenge the medical field in a number of ways, it is exacerbating problems contributing to nursing shortages and retention rates. While COVID is a primary factor in nurse burnout, it is not the only factor causing the crisis of nursing shortages. Improving nurse retention strategies is top of mind for healthcare leaders.
Critical factors of nursing shortages, as of 2022, include Baby Boomers retiring, need for training/education, an increase in life expectancy, and high turnover rates. Baby Boomers, who are the largest generation in the United States, are of retirement age in 2022, and nearly 500,000 of them are nurses. This not only presents the need for half a million jobs to be filled but also serves as a staggering loss of well trained, experienced, and loyal nurses.
The loss of Baby Boomers bleeds into the next issue, which is the need for more training and education. Nursing educator rates continue to decrease as well. The lack of nurse faculty and resources are preventing the next generation of nurses from growing at the same rapid rate as the shortage. Additionally, life expectancy continues to increase, thereby increasing the patient population. Lastly, the lack of nurse retention is negatively impacting hospitals and patients throughout not only in the U.S., but worldwide.
With a national average of 27.1% turnover for registered nurses and 31% of new graduate nurses leaving after their first year, healthcare organizations are losing substantial amounts of money. The average cost of turnover per nurse is $46,100, making this retention issue not only physically and mentally challenging but wildly expensive. Combating increasing turnover rates and reducing the nursing shortage must begin with raising nurse retention rates. Here are five key strategies for retaining the nursing workforce:
Prioritizing Nurses’ Mental Health
As awareness to mental health increases, the taboo of discussing struggles is decreasing, and nurses are prioritizing their emotional needs. One survey found that 93% of healthcare workers were experiencing stress, 86% reported anxiety, and 75% reported feeling overwhelmed.
Nurses are pushed to their physical and emotional limits daily. As such, it is critical that nursing leaders are provided adequate emotional support. Key factors in heightened nurse anxiety and depression include an inadequate work/personal life ratio, toxic work environments, high-pressure situations, and fear of causing patient harm. Strategies to mitigate these factors are implementing a mentorship program to nurture relationships between veteran and inexperienced nurses, reasonable amounts of time off, adequate breaks throughout shifts, and encouraging positive communications and culture between staff members. By addressing these areas of concern, hospitals and nursing leaders can increase nurse retention.
Nursing is the largest healthcare profession with nearly 4 million registered nurses nationwide. But all too often, they do not receive the recognition they deserve. To retain nurses, there must be a system to provide them with the recognition they have earned through their immensely demanding career. Recognition boosts morale and productivity among not only those being recognized, but for those around them who now have additional incentive to continue giving their patients the best care possible despite feelings of burnout.
According to The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), critical elements for organizations to truly implement meaningful recognition, they must have a comprehensive system in place with a sustainable focus, staff member awareness and education about the process, recognition from bedside to boardroom, and regular evaluation for overall effectiveness.
Many healthcare facilities utilize the DAISY model of standardized meaningful nurse recognition. This model is used in 2,800 healthcare facilities in all 50 states and 17 countries.
Opportunities To Develop Nursing Careers
Nursing leaders are gaining more recognition than ever, and more nurses are pursuing advanced degrees in preparation to take on new roles. To support nurses on their career journey, organizations must establish a culture that promotes learning and leadership development. Not only will additional resources impact a nurse’s ability to care for their patients, continuing education and clinical training will help prepare them as decision makers within the larger scope of the healthcare industry.
Open Lines of Communication
As in any profession, nurses want and need supervisors to hear their voices. Valuing feedback from nurses and adhering to their reasonable requests is vital to increasing retention rates.
Investing in more benefits for nurses can reduce both turnover rates and costs. Frequently surveying nurses to gather data and make improvements based on that feedback demonstrates that their needs and concerns are both valued and heard. Providing a formal process for nurses to voice their needs and concerns ensures that these issues are taken into consideration to improve conditions for both nurses and patients.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Inclusivity is essential in all facets of the workforce, but it is especially critical in administering medical care. A diverse patient population must be cared for by a diverse nurse population able to identify and meet their specific needs.
In the current climate, patients will continue to be misrepresented if healthcare leaders themselves do not abide by current diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) standards. Without a strong DEI foundation, healthcare workers, patients, and their families will continue to suffer.
Small changes make a big difference in cultivating an inclusive workforce. A few strategies to increase DEI include expanding the candidate pool by asking employees to refer individuals with diverse backgrounds, offering implicit association training and assessment for associates to understand their own biases, and using inclusive language on signage in buildings for restrooms, locker rooms, etc. Making changes to promote inclusivity will enhance the experience and care for patients and staff alike.
Insights on Nurse Retention Strategies
By understanding what trends are occurring in nurses’ opinions of their roles and salaries, healthcare leaders, recruiters, and hiring managers can develop strategies that help them feel cared for and engaged with their organization. The insights presented in the Nurse.com 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report can be used to inform your efforts to retain nurses.