Nurse Retention Ideas and Examples

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Written by Katherine Zheng, PhD, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A team of nurses sitting together at a table, working out their strategies for improving nurse retention.

Nurse turnover rates are raising alarm bells throughout the medical world as organizations face increasingly complex staffing challenges. Healthcare leaders across the country are focused on identifying effective retention strategies for front-line nurses and aides to address the problem. If you’re facing high rates of turnover in your facility or residence, implement effective nurse retention strategies that encourage your nurses to stay.

A facility’s ability to keep its nursing positions filled has an impact on its overall operation. In fact, low nursing retention leads to staggering increases to organizational costs and decreased quality of patient care. In this article, we’ll discuss some key considerations as you make a plan that incentivizes your nursing staff to stay with your organization.

Nurse Turnover and Staffing: FAQ

If you’re wondering how to reduce nurse turnover, it’s essential to look at the root causes. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about nurse turnover and staffing, which can provide broader context to the issue.

What are the causes of turnover?

The Center for Medicare Advocacy reports that high staff turnover is caused by a range of factors, including low pay with limited or no benefits, physically demanding work, and unsustainable staffing ratios that lead to mental exhaustion. Left unaddressed, these issues can lead to nurse burnout, which is also frequently listed as a significant factor by nursing professionals who leave bedside care positions.

What’s the difference between burnout and moral injury?

Burnout and moral injury are two common phenomenons that can contribute to nursing turnover. While they’re often mistaken for one another, there are some key differences between these two concepts.

  • Burnout refers to feelings of exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced feelings of accomplishment that are more generally caused by workplace stress.
  • Moral injury refers to prolonged periods of distress that occur when nurses are forced to witness or partake in actions that go against their values.

How do you balance short-term and long-term staffing needs?

When implementing staffing strategies, it’s important to look beyond filling vacant shifts as a one-time fix and work toward sustaining a more balanced workforce. Staffing agencies can help you fill shifts on a temporary basis. However, you may also consider working with a staffing partner that can help you foster stability and improve nursing retention in the long-term.

5 Nurse Retention Strategies

Now that we’ve gone over some common causes of nurse turnover and staffing considerations, let’s discuss how to address the issue. Below are five retention strategies that you can implement at your facility.

1. Recruit Strategically

What can hospitals do during the recruitment and selection process to help improve nurse retention? While this question typically arises when positions open up, it needs to be an ongoing consideration. It’s important to find the balance between filling the position quickly and finding the right person for the job. A wide variety of nursing recruitment best practices can help you find quality candidates who are committed to your organization.

First, develop a strong job description that clearly outlines the benefits of working at your organization, like compensation packages, benefits, and scheduling flexibility. Be sure to clearly communicate your requirements and offerings so candidates aren’t surprised about the specifics later in the process.

Once you’ve created a strong job posting, share it through a range of channels: job boards, social media platforms, nurse ambassadors, employee referrals, or nursing education programs. If you have a number of open positions to fill, consider creating a comprehensive nurse hiring campaign to find qualified candidates.

Example: A facility is in need of certified nursing assistants (CNAs). They post an optimized CNA job description in a range of locations. Once they’ve found a pool of applicants, they use strategic interview questions to identify those that align with the organization’s culture and goals.

2. Invest in Wellness

Be sure that your organization demonstrates a commitment to the overall health of your nurses and aides. The first step is to prioritize safe working conditions related to patient handling, workplace interactions, infection prevention, and other safety considerations.

Additionally, implement employee wellness initiatives that promote the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of your staff. Consider offering access to outside counseling services, stress management programs, or wellness coaches. Scheduling and breaks also play a part in nurse wellness, so evaluate how your facility’s current system may be impacting nurse retention.

Example: A facility creates a committee that consists of nursing leadership and staff from various departments to develop a wellness program. The program promotes free and useful self-care resources for the nursing staff and creates a policy allowing nurses to take a mental health day after a patient death

3. Encourage Professional Growth

Healthcare organizations can improve nurse retention by providing opportunities for professional growth. This can include professional development programs, continuing education, conferences, workshops, and certifications. A culture of learning and advancement will encourage nursing professionals to stay and develop their careers within your organization.

If your staff feels stuck or stagnant, they may seek employment elsewhere. It’s important that your nurses and aides are not just allowed, but truly encouraged, to pursue advances in their healthcare career.

Example: A staff nurse obtains additional certifications and continuing education offered by their facility. When an opening becomes available on their nurse management team, the nurse is offered the position.

4. Amplify Nurse Voices

Encourage open communication and collaboration throughout your organization. Make sure that your management team regularly shares updates, changes, and future plans to keep your nursing team informed.

Also, remember that communication is a two-way street. Seek out nurses’ perspectives and provide opportunities for input. This can be accomplished through a variety of means, like surveys, committees, feedback forms, open-door policies, and staff meetings.

If nurses express concerns, let them know that they’re heard and understood. While you may have control over just some of the factors, take every possible action to address them. This will build trust and loyalty among your nursing staff.

Example: A nursing management team implements regular staff meetings but finds that their nursing team is afraid to voice their opinions. The managers implement an anonymous feedback mechanism to remove fears of retribution. At the next meeting, nurse managers take time to address concerns that were submitted.

5. Minimize Workplace Dangers

According to IntelyCare’s nursing trends survey, many nurses report safety being a top concern. Nurses can face a range of workplace dangers, such as patient/visitor violence, environmental hazards, or bullying and harassment.;

In order to help nurses feel more comfortable coming to work and staying in their roles, safety must be made a priority. Offering training and workshops that foster a more collaborative environment and reduce workplace dangers can help you better protect and instill more confidence among your staff.

Example: A nurse manager implements de-escalation training to help nurses diffuse situations in which patients are becoming combative. This helps reduce harm caused by workplace violence, and helps nurses feel safer in the environment.

Do You Have Urgent Staffing Needs?

Learning how to improve nurse retention is a long and necessary process, but what if you also need a quicker solution? If you have urgent staffing needs in your facility, we’re here to help. Partnering with IntelyCare gives you access to high-quality nursing professionals fast.

IntelyCare B2C content editor Kayla Tyson contributed to the writing and research for this article.

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