The healthcare industry faces an intense challenge when it comes to staff retention. With long hours, high levels of stress, and a shortage of qualified workers, keeping employees happy and engaged can be difficult.
About 100,000 registered nurses (RNs) left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic due to stress, burnout, and retirement according to a new study published by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing in April 2023. Another 610,388 RNs reported the intent to leave the workforce by 2027 for the same reasons.
A quarter to half of the nurses who participated in the survey reported feeling emotionally drained (50.8%), used up (56.4%), fatigued (49.7%), burned out (45.1%), or at the end of the rope (29.4%) a few times a week or every day. The study projects that by 2027, about one-fifth (900,000) of RNs in the U.S. will leave the healthcare workforce.
Staff turnover is costly and impacts the care you provide. The average cost of turnover for a staff RN is $52,350, according to the 2023 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report, published by the NSI Nursing Solutions, Inc., a national nurse recruitment agency.
The Relias 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report found that among the factors that would motivate nurses to stay in the profession are higher pay (73%), better support for work-life balance (57%), more reasonable workload (53%), better benefits (43%), better manager interactions (30%), and more professional development options (23%).
Improve your healthcare staff retention with these 6 retentions strategies:
1. Listen to your employees
Leaders and managers should execute listening tours to keep the finger on the pulse of their employees. Ask employees questions like, Tell me about a great day you had. What made it great? Or Tell me about a frustrating day you had. You can use stay interview questions to help you understand how employees feel about the work place. “Make sure to really make yourself approachable and let [the employees] know too,” said Silletto. “You want to learn more about being on the front line.”
2. Reset realistic and sustainable workload expectations
Healthcare work is demanding and challenging, and staff is overloaded. Unrealistic or unsustainable workload expectations cause employee turnover. Leaders should set realistic workloads to keep employees from leaving.
3. Build HR retention capacity
In addition to recruiting and talent acquisition specialists on your HR team, create a part-time or full-time position for a retention initiatives specialist. The person in this role will support the HR team by focusing on employee retention and decreasing turnover. If you don’t have the budget to hire that person for that role, create a retention task force that will include a multidisciplinary group that meets weekly or monthly to discuss what your organization can do to improve retention.
4. Create onboarding checklists for new hires
The first 30, 60, and 90 days are a huge flight risk for new hires. The onboarding process to new roles and teams takes time. Create onboarding checklists that specify what new hires in your organization’s various roles and departments need to know on their first day, first week, first month, and first quarter. You can include some onboarding micro training, team building activities, and mentoring in existing team meetings that new hires participate in.
5. Build a training plan for managers and supervisors
Give your supervisors and managers the tools to be successful leaders. Look at your management and leadership training programs and ensure they include training for the supervisory level, middle management, directors’ level, and advancement programs. Build training and development programs for your senior leaders also. “When you make your managers better at every level, especially in the supervisor and management roles, they can buffer issues on the frontline and resolve conflicts,” said Silletto.
6. Let your staff have time for self-maintenance
Employees in health care hardly get any downtime. Training, development, and mentoring programs are what they need to maintain and grow their careers, and leaders need to incorporate that into the workload. In addition, promoting work-life balance is essential for a healthy work environment, and employees should not feel guilty for taking the paid time off they earned.
Staff retention in health care is essential for providing quality patient care and maintaining a stable workforce. Developing talented leaders and employees and keeping them in your organization is crucial. Despite the staffing crisis, mentoring, coaching, and building strong manager-employee relationships are within your reach.
Your employees, your patients, and your agency win when a culture of learning feeds a culture of staff retention and high-quality care.
Creating a Realistic Roadmap for Retention
In today’s challenging workforce, you must make changes to stabilize staffing and return to a higher quality of care and profitability. Cara Silletto, MBA, CSP, President and Chief Retention Officer, Magnet Culture, offers strategies to improve employee retention in health care.Watch the Webinar →