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Focus on Nurse Benefits, Wellness, and Education Can Help Retention

Let’s face it. Keeping your organization fully staffed may never be an item you can cross off your nurse recruiter to-do list. Turnover was an obstacle before the pandemic, and it will very likely be an issue for years to come.

Although salary is a strong factor when nurses consider switching jobs, improving nurse benefits may be another way to attract and retain staff.

According to the most recent NSI Nursing Solutions report, the national hospital turnover rate for all employees increased from 19.5% in 2020 to 25.9% in 2021. In terms of nursing, the 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report: Trends and Insights for Leaders and Recruiters from Nurse.com noted that the nurse turnover rate reached 22% in 2021.

The transition into practice for new graduates is more difficult in today’s more complex healthcare environment. The growth of accelerated nursing programs means new grad nurses often have less clinical experience than in the past and have a tougher transition into practice.

Unfortunately, nearly half of new graduate nurses leave the profession within their first two years and it takes an average of three months to recruit a qualified nurse to fill a vacancy, a period that is expected to increase in the wake of the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

As a nurse recruiter, the obvious (and necessary) benefit to call attention to when posting job positions is that your employer provides competitive salaries. But as enticing as a good salary is, in the current market, salaries aren’t your only go-to option for attracting and retaining nurses.

The 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report explored the top desired nurse benefits that survey respondents did not have. They were bonuses, malpractice insurance, paid continuing education, and profit sharing.

Touting these benefits, if your organization offers them, can be attractive to nurses and help fill your open positions.

Nurse Benefits Should Include Healthy Work Environment

By definition, a healthy work environment is a work setting in which policies, procedures, and systems are designed so that employees can meet organizational objectives and achieve personal satisfaction in their work.

Several organizations, including the Nursing Organization Alliance, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies, the International Council of Nurses, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), have outlined criteria that characterize a healthy work environment.

One of the most widely used sets of standards for establishing and sustaining healthy work environments was developed by the AACN. Their six essential standards include skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition, and authentic leadership.

Keep Nurse Managers and Leaders Involved in Retention

The right manager can influence employees to stay with your organization longer. The wrong one can drive them away. Leaders who stay connected with their new graduates can help them feel less professionally isolated. Leaders can also provide them with guidance on how to seek help when they need it.

Connecting with nurses from the start is one way to ensure a long-lasting, collaborative work relationship. Find out their personal and professional motivations, and meet with them regularly, in person or virtually, to cultivate a positive manager-employee relationship.

Communication lays the groundwork for building a climate of trust and respect. Ask for and give regular feedback to ensure that each staff member feels included and heard. Coach them when improvement is needed and praise them for a job well done.

It’s important to note that nurses want to feel they are making a difference with the work they do, and their managers can help nurture that feeling by sharing success stories among the whole team.

Invest in Education and Professional Development

Clearly, every nurse benefits when an employer provides education that will enhance job skills. Doing so also can bring advantages to employers.

To retain nurses, leaders need to provide opportunities for nurses to explore their potential. Nurse retention is highest in organizations that focus on developing their staff. Investing in internal training, continuing professional education, and creating a path for higher education are all ways to engage employees.

Providing access to a wide range of options that include continuing education, support for certification and credentialing, and higher education such as bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate programs in user-friendly formats is key to communicating to your staff that you are committed to their career development for the long term.

Understand and Incorporate Nurse Benefits

Leaders and recruiters who understand what motivates nurses to stay will have an advantage in recruiting nurses, increasing job satisfaction, and growing nurse leaders. By actively researching and implementing what matters most to nurses, recruiters and leaders can make informed decisions to improve recruitment and retention efforts.

As a first step, recruiters and leaders can learn directly from nurses about what benefits they find most valuable. With insights from more than 2,500 nurse professionals, the 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report shares information on what benefits drive nurses to stay or leave. This information can be a valuable resource in your recruitment and retention efforts.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2021 and has been updated with new content. 

Download the report here.