5 Nurse Recruitment & Retention Strategies

Nurses are one of the most sought after roles in healthcare, and with a 12% projected job growth rate by 2028—much faster than the average for all occupations—the demand for nurses is only increasing. Given the current and future need for nurses, healthcare organizations must focus on recruiting new nurses, but perhaps more importantly—keeping the current nursing staff engaged with their clinical practice. Understanding how to retain nurses is a timely challenge, faced by nearly every healthcare organization across the country.

Healthcare leaders are pushed to think outside the box and must consider innovative nurse retention strategies to retain nurses. New graduate nurse retention statistics suggest that as many as 30% of new graduate nurses will leave during their first year of practice, increasing to as many as 57% within the second year. With the average cost of turnover per nurse between $37,700-$58,400, healthcare organizations can’t afford to continue to lose the nurses they have. Organizations can quickly focus their retention efforts, starting with these five nurse retention strategies:

  • Be Strategic During Recruitment
  • Establish a Nurse Residency Program
  • Make Career Development a Top Priority
  • Promote a Culture of Learning
  • Offer a Flexible Work Schedule

1. Be Strategic During Recruitment

The first step in developing a successful nursing retention plan includes a strategic recruitment initiative. With new graduate nurses making up a large percentage of overall nursing turnover, attracting the best-fitting nurses from the start will make retaining them that much easier.

Engage from the First Touch

Just as nurse candidates aim to make a solid first impression, so should organizations/recruiters. Given the demand for nurses, it’s likely that candidates will have their choice between different healthcare organizations and positions. A seamless interview process that includes clear directions, and maintains a high level of professionalism can help HR teams at healthcare organizations make a great first impression.

Set and Meet a Hiring Standard

While a candidate’s application will provide an overview of their clinical practice knowledge and skillset, it’s less likely to include their behavioral competencies which are telling signs of how well they’ll fit within an organization. Ensuring alignment of values between an organization and a nursing candidate promotes solidarity from the start. Personality attributes such as accountability, honesty, and conscientiousness can help determine a candidate’s behavioral characteristics and likelihood for success within a specific role.

2. Establish a Nurse Residency Program

Research shows a direct link between nurse residency programs and retention. Participants also reported higher satisfaction with orientation/onboarding compared to those without a formal nurse residency program. Organizations with a nurse residency program provide new nurses with additional support, while also engaging experienced nurses as preceptors—fostering new connections and a healthy, collaborative culture. In addition to improving nurse retention, nurse residency programs instill a sense of community and confidence in new nurses.

3. Make Career Development a Top Priority

Nursing leaders are gaining more recognition than ever, and more nurses are pursuing advanced degrees in preparation to take on new roles in their careers. 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.

Reward High Achievers

Organizations focusing on how to improve nurse retention often overlook something as simple as recognition for high-performing nurses. Even a quick and informal celebration or mention during a huddle at the beginning of each shift can reiterate a nurse’s value, increasing their likelihood to stay in their role.

Recognize Longevity

This approach for how to retain nurse staff is also a small effort with a big reward. Taking a moment to celebrate those nurses with work anniversaries for their dedication and loyalty to the organization is especially important for millennial nurse retention, as these nurses may be more comfortable with change (leaving their practice or an organization).

4. Promote a Culture of Learning

Providing nurses with an ongoing opportunity for lifelong learning is truly worth the investment. Not only will they improve their overall clinical practice knowledge, but an investment in learning also impacts the quality of the organization, and shows nurses they’re valued beyond their direct contributions to their unit and patients. Ensuring nurses feel valued is key to retaining nurses in the workplace.

5. Offer a Flexible Work Schedule

Promoting a healthy work-life balance is an important key to improving nursing staff retention. Nurses endure physically and emotionally demanding shifts (typically 12 hours), leaving little room for additional energy. Especially important for new nurse retention, organizations should create a culture that encourages time away from work and the chance to recharge.

Reduce Overtime Work

Nurses that consistently work overtime shifts experience more burnout, reducing their engagement and satisfaction. By limiting overtime work, organizations promote the health of their nurses versus only focusing on the organization’s immediate operational needs—ultimately greatly benefiting both in the long run.

Consider a Shared Governance Approach to Scheduling

Nurses that have input into their schedule are more likely to feel empowered and trusted in their careers. While a new nurse likely understands that working weekends and holidays is part of the job, having a say in which ones can make them feel less dissatisfied about it. As an outside the box solution to staffing, nurse managers might implement a shared governance approach, allowing nurses to sign up for their shifts as opposed to being assigned a set schedule.

Interested in Learning More about Nurse Retention?

Read our post on 4 Steps to Hire and Retain Your Best Nurses to keep your staff engaged even more effective.

Recruitment and Retention Resources

As the national leader in holistic healthcare assessments, Relias Assessments empowers nurse managers to leverage assessments to make informed hiring and placement decisions thereby helping them achieve better long-term nurse success, satisfaction, and retention. Assessment data helps nurse managers identify developmental areas, continuously measure competencies, and cultivate future leaders.

Additionally, CE Direct (known for its reputation as the leading provider in continuing education) offers a wealth of knowledge to nurse managers on management and leadership education, including:

  • 100+ courses specific to management and leadership training for nurses, such as Developing Your Leadership Potential and Coaching: An Essential Skill for Nurses.
  • Certification Review courses on nursing’s most popular topics to help nurse managers self-prepare for certification exams, prepare for recertification, and earn CE hours while improving knowledge.
  • Focused CE Series on Nursing Preceptor Specialty Practice to maximize nurses’ knowledge in preceptoring. Topics include boundaries between preceptor and preceptee, critical thinking, time management, evaluation of competency, goal-writing, constructive feedback, patient/family engagement, HCAHPS, NDNQI, and more.
Alisha Cornell

Alisha Cornell, DNP, MSN, RN, is an experienced nurse leader, clinical consultant, and nurse informaticist, who understands the role of executive nurse leaders as well as the impact of healthcare on the lives of nurses. Her combination of formal education and lived experiences provides a platform of inspiring others through self-awareness and a purpose driven life. Her commitment to impacting the lives of nurses through servant leadership is driven by her history of managing dynamic nursing teams and conquering life one day at a time. She is a strong advocate for improving self-care among nurses, equal access to healthcare in underserved populations, and improving community health education concerning mental health and social determinants of health.

Natalie Vaughn

Senior Content Marketing Manager, Relias

Natalie Vaughn has worked in marketing and communications for more than 15 years, with more than half of her experience dedicated to healthcare quality improvement. At Relias, she partners with physicians, nurses, curriculum designers, writers, and other staff members to shape healthcare content designed to improve clinical practice, staff expertise, and patient outcomes. She obtained a Master of Business Administration degree with a focus in marketing, driven by a passion for understanding consumer behavior, branding strategies, and leveraging thought leaders as innovators within a given industry.

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