How To Improve Nurse Retention

How Can I Improve Nurse Retention At My Facility?

Whether or not there is a nursing shortage happening, many healthcare facilities struggle to stay fully staffed, thanks to high nurse turnover rates. Any administrator that has been in charge of recruiting new nurses understands just how challenging it can be, and that’s why it’s important to cover all of your bases. Nurse retention is a critical piece of the nurse staffing puzzle because it’s much easier, more cost-effective, and better for morale to retain your best nurses rather than conducting a search for new nurse staff.  

Here are some nurse retention strategies your facility can explore to help improve nurse retention and reduce turnover. 


Why Does Nurse Retention Matter?

Strong retention rates among your nursing staff means more consistency of care, stronger morale, and saves a facility significant money on recruiting costs. 

According to NSI, the average cost of bedside RN turnover is around $52,000 per position. Every percent increase in RN turnover can cost a facility an additional $328,000 per point. According to a recent study by the RN Work Project, 17% percent of newly licensed RNs change jobs within one year of being hired, and 33% change jobs after two years. After eight years, 60% of new nurses will have changed jobs at least one time.


What Causes High Nurse Turnover Rates?

Before you can develop retention strategies for your nursing staff, you should understand what causes high nurse turnover. While every nurse will have specific reasons for resigning, there is one common factor that contributes to turnover. Stress is the number one contributing factor to nurses leaving their jobs. They work long hours, differing shifts, have to deal with demanding patients, are exposed to crises, and, depending on their specialty, are at a higher risk of experiencing violence in the facility. 

Burnout is extremely common in the field, and it is almost entirely preventable, but employers often fail to see the signs of burnout in their nursing staff or ignore signs of burnout and just accept turnover as part of the cost of doing business.   

However, turnover breeds more turnover. When a facility or department in a facility is experiencing issues with inconsistent staffing, the first option is to ask staff to work even more overtime, which causes more stress, which leads to more turnover.  

While it is impossible to remove all stress from a nurse’s job, there are many factors that are in your control, and reducing stress lies at the heart of reducing nurse turnover.


Give Nurses Reasons To Stay

You may think that all facilities are the same and all nursing jobs are equal, but the fact is, nurses can and do have a near-endless array of job opportunities available to them. That means that if you don’t give your nurses compelling reasons to stay, they will likely move on sooner rather than later.  

Improving retention won’t happen by luck or by accident. It takes work and sometimes some hard decisions to reduce and prevent nursing turnover. But when you work on things like management culture, employee engagement, and benefits, you will see positive results.


Nurse Leaders Can Impact Retention Rates

If turnover is higher among some departments than others, the first thing to consider is whether or not your nurse leaders are providing the right culture and the right support for their nursing staff.  One of the oldest adages in HR and recruiting is, “People don’t leave jobs. They leave bad bosses.” While that’s certainly not a universal truth, according to a recent survey, 57% of people have quit a job because of a bad manager.  

Conducting exit interviews and anonymous surveys of nurses can help you determine whether a nurse leader could be a contributing factor to turnover. If you find that it is a contributing factor, first remember that nurse leaders are under tremendous pressure in the workplace. If you discover that one of your leaders is contributing to turnover, you’ll need to determine whether the situation is temporary and stress-related, in which case you’ll want to support that nurse leader in reducing that stress. If the situation isn’t temporary, you’ll need to coach the nurse leader to improve, or you may end up having to part ways.  

To create a culture that boosts retention, nurse leaders should: 

  • Have a high level of empathy  
  • Exhibit strong emotional intelligence 
  • Be approachable  
  • Be a strong communicator 
  • Stay tuned into the daily issues staff may raise
  • Support the mission and culture of the facility

It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that a nurse leader could be causing turnover, but when you have the right leaders in place, you’re on the path to stronger nurse retention.


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Make Nurses Feel Valued and Appreciated

Given the amount of stress that nurses are under and the amount of work they put in each and every day, feeling undervalued or unappreciated will increase stress and will lead them to look for a new job.  

It’s simply not enough to hang up signs and bring in catered lunches for Nurses’ Week. To show nurses are valued, they must feel like they are seen and recognized, that their challenges are a priority for leadership, and they must be paid well. 

Making nurses feel valued goes hand-in-hand with having the right nurse leaders in place. Supervisors who listen, who champion their staff, who support them, and ensure they have the resources they need will contribute to nurses feeling more valued on the job. A nurse who feels seen and heard by supervisors and leaders will feel understood, and this will drive quality of care, team morale, and retention.  

Base pay, performance-based raises, and competitive benefits packages are also important factors in making nurses feel valued and appreciated. If a nurse is underpaid, they feel undervalued and it’s not difficult to find a job that pays more. Make sure nurse salaries are in line with the market and that you offer incentives, performance-based raises, generous paid time off, and strong medical benefits.  

It’s hard for nurses to leave a facility if they feel valued and appreciated every day. That feeling of appreciation translates into loyalty, boosting healthcare staff retention.


Support Continuing Education and Development

Employers that invest in their nurses’ futures tend to see higher retention rates than facilities that do not.  Nurses must complete a set number of continuing education (CE) hours every one to two years, but it’s important to go beyond the bare minimum and promote a culture of learning and development 

You can reduce turnover and improve retention by actively supporting your nurses’ ongoing education and career growth with perks like:  

  • Tuition assistance 
  • Tuition reimbursement 
  • Sending nurses to seminars and conferences 
  • Offering internal training opportunities
  • Offering CE programs onsite

Nurses know that employers are investing time and money in their futures when they receive education and development benefits like these, and it goes a long way towards reducing turnover.


Leverage Short-Term Nursing Jobs To Reduce Stress and Turnover

When a team is experiencing turnover, it’s easy to simply ask or require your remaining nurses to work overtime. Most nursing professionals expect that they will work overtime when needs dictate but asking them to perform too much overtime will lead to burnout, which will lead to turnover.  

Instead of using existing staff to cover gaps, it can be wise to leverage temporary and contract nurses to fill in roles while you search for a full-time staff member. Allowing your core staff to have time off to recharge their batteries and de-stress can improve job satisfaction and ultimately boost nursing retention.  

When choosing this route to help reduce nurse stress and turnover, it is a good practice to partner with an effective and efficient nursing staffing company that can handle the day-to-day sourcing and scheduling of those contract-based nurses and allied health professionals. Offloading this responsibility ensures you will remain fully staffed, but your nurse leaders won’t sustain additional administrative burdens


Nurse Retention Begins With The Hiring Process

Your ability to retain nurses begins with your hiring process and your ability to recruit well. The best leaders, the best benefits and the highest pay won’t matter if the wrong person is on the job.  Hiring well is about conducting strong, behavioral interviews, talking with former employers and references, and clearly communicating the culture of the facility before making an offer. It’s also important to evaluate a candidate’s soft skills to ensure they will work well with your team and with your patients. 

However, when a facility is short-staffed, it’s very easy to hire warm bodies just to fill a nursing role.  

Working with an expert healthcare and nursing recruiter can help you improve your hiring process and allow you to recruit nurses that are a strong technical and cultural fit for your facility.  Expert nurse staffing firms can also help you hire exceptional short-term nurses to fill staff gaps, ensuring those nurses are fully vetted and verified and will fit in well, even though they are not permanent employees.  

If your medical facility is ready to reduce nurse turnover and boost retention, BOS Medical Staffing is ready to help. Since 2008, BOS Medical Staffing has brought talented nurses, therapists, and medical administrators together with top healthcare facilities.  Contact BOS Medical today to talk about customized nurse staffing solutions.


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