Combatting The Shortage: 3 Strategies For Better Nurse Retention

nurse retention

An aging population and expanded coverage means there are more patients to care for, but healthcare facilities are struggling to keep up. While this talent shortage is being felt across all specialties, nursing is one area that has been hit particularly hard. As a result, hospitals and other medical organizations are offering expensive perks and unique incentives in an attempt to set themselves apart when hiring nurses.

“The national unemployment rate in 2017 for registered nurses was 1.4%, which gives RNs the advantage when job seeking,” says Kyle Mattice, President of The Execu|Search Group’s Healthcare division. “Not only does this contribute to a very competitive recruiting environment, but it can also lead to higher turnover—making it more difficult to deliver high quality care.”

This is an issue that will only worsen in the years to come as more baby boomer nurses retire. By 2024, the BLS projects a need for 649,100 replacement nurses—bringing the total number of job openings for nurses due to growth and replacements to 1.09 million.

“Struggling to secure talent, many medical facilities are getting creative when hiring,” says Katie Niekrash, Senior Managing Director of Healthcare. “While signing bonuses and free housing are certainly nice perks to offer during the onboarding process, the focus really needs to be on retention. If your nurses don’t have a positive workplace experience, nothing is going to stop them from looking for a new job after one or two years. This will only leave your facility in the same position time and time again.”

High turnover will not only cost you $37,700 to $58,400 per nurse, but it can also impact your ability to attract future talent. Here are 3 strategies that can help medical facilities improve nurse retention:

Promote educational growth

A 2017 survey of 4,500 nurses found that 80% of millennial nurses and 57% of Gen Xers plan to pursue higher education. With this in mind, medical facilities can develop nurse retention programs to help their colleagues achieve their educational goals. Leaders can assist motivated nurses by implementing onsite educational programs, providing flexible scheduling options for nurses balancing work and school, offering tuition reimbursement, and sharing avenues through which nurses can earn certifications.

Provide opportunities for advancement through succession planning

When managing a high patient volume, it can be easy to focus on the day-to-day operations of the facility. However, organizations also need to think big picture in terms of the growth they are offering their staff. “To improve nurse retention, you need to understand how your nurses will advance with the organization as their career progresses,” advises Katie. “Then you have to take the steps to motivate them to take advantage of these opportunities. For example, milestone bonuses, continuous training, and leadership development programs are three initiatives that can help communicate their value.”

It’s also important for more recent hires to see a tangible path to leadership. By nurturing younger talent, you can motivate them to work harder and stay with the organization for the long haul.

Reinforce a Positive Workplace Culture

Bullying is a multi-faceted and deeply ingrained issue within the nursing world. For example, a Vanderbilt University Medical Center study found that 60% of new nurses leave their first position within six months due to some form of verbal abuse or harsh treatment from a colleague.

Leaders can tackle this issue by creating a positive model of professional and supportive workplace interaction. One way to boost morale is by implementing mentor programs, so nurses feel they have support from each other. It might also be a good idea to coordinate informal review sessions between department heads and their nursing staff to encourage positive feedback and a supportive working environment.