Topic Hub

Nurse Leadership: Empowering Nurses To Excel and Lead

A resource hub from Relias to help healthcare organizations retain, develop, and position their nurses to build high functioning, engaged teams that provide the highest quality of patient care.

Building Strengths

Building your nurses’ leadership skills of is one of the most important ways to support the success and longevity of your healthcare organization, especially when hiring and retaining nurses is more challenging than ever. Empowering your best talent develops, engages, and rewards those individuals — but more importantly, it creates mentors and teachers who will guide newer nurses to become top performers for your organization.

In addition to strengthening your staff pipeline, your efforts to develop leaders extend out to every facet of your organization, improving the teams they work with, the clinicians they support, and the patients they serve. Instilling a leadership mindset transforms employees into innovators who take ownership of their success and facilitate the success of others. Achieve gains in efficiency and patient satisfaction, beginning with an investment in your people and make a commitment to be the best.

Nurse recognition programs

Developing Effective Nurse Leaders in a Challenging Climate

new nurse holds tablet

According to our 2022 Nurse Salary Report, the vacancy rate for registered nurses was almost 10% in 2020, with a third of hospitals reporting a vacancy rate higher than 10%. Nurse turnover rates stood at about 22% in 2021. These numbers represent a continuation of trends that began before the pandemic and continue to increase. Providers are urgently asking what they can do to develop and maintain a strong staff despite high attrition rates across the profession.

Key takeaways from our report included salary and benefits, pandemic impacts, and gender pay equity. However, we also examined job satisfaction and what nurses want in an employer. Nearly half responded that advancement opportunities and the strength of their own manager were the “most important” factors of their overall job satisfaction. Even more responded that the ability to use the full scope of their nursing practice on the job was key to their satisfaction. From this, we know that nurses want the following:

  • Nurses want leaders who exemplify excellence in nursing.
  • Nurses want leaders who help them grow in their careers.
  • Nurses want leaders who help them use the full scope of their nursing practice.

Interested in more details from our study, as well as exploring the reasons nurses leave? Download the report below.

Nursing home patient and nurse with masks on

What is a nurse leader? According to the American Nurses Association’s Leadership Institute, it’s a nurse “who is interested in excelling in a career path,” who “represents the interests of the nursing profession,” and who desires to advance “to the next level of leadership.” Qualities such as being encouraging, inspirational, and supportive apply, but beyond that, nurse leaders are those whose work quality correlates to better patient outcomes, fewer medical errors, improved staff retention, and other major benefits.

It isn’t any one quality or skill that creates a nurse leader, but a combination of skills that come from nurses’ willingness and ability to develop, learn, and grow in their roles. They must have an agile mindset that enables them to adapt to rapidly changing environments. There is also a link between effective leadership and a high-quality work environment, providing support for the idea that the culture that your teams create supports better patient care, which in turn attracts better staff.

new nurse holds tablet Nursing home patient and nurse with masks on

Best Practices for Developing Your Nursing Team

Identifying and retaining talent: When an employee departs, we often think about factors at the end of the employee’s tenure that caused them to leave. But retaining talent starts during the pre-hire period, when organizations must create the right scenario for success.

For one Relias customer, a nurse retention strategy using Relias Assessments before new nurses even started their jobs reduced their nurse turnover rate by 81%. Paying close attention to the needs and aptitudes of your new nurses can reduce the steep resignation rates that often occur at the beginning of the nursing career. By ensuring that new graduates are prepared and placed appropriately, you can create a strong pipeline from the pre-hire period. These gains will compound over time for a sustained impact that will benefit your organization.

Maximizing the onboarding process: Onboarding provides an important retention opportunity that your organization should maximize. Relias Assessments is a proven tool for creating a positive onboarding process that establishes a solid foundation for your new nurses. Comparing onboarding times before and after using Relias Assessments, one customer achieved a 33% reduction in onboarding time, which significantly reduced costs and improved competency with an individualized onboarding education experience.

With Relias, the customer achieved the goals of transitioning students into confident nurses, identifying and bridging clinical gaps, enhancing critical thinking and decision making, and fostering continuous professional growth and development. The customer also demonstrated ROI through quality, retention, and cost savings, and increasing new graduate nurse retention rates while reducing overall RN turnover.

Using assessments for employee development: How does employee development correlate to retention? If you’ve watched an employee depart in frustration because of challenging work circumstances, you know all too well what can happen without sufficient training and preparation. Even if you fill vacancies quickly, time spent hiring, onboarding, and training new nurses can greatly exceed the cost — both financial and in productivity — of investing in an in-depth pre-hire, onboarding, and assessment solution.

Organizations must invest in their employees throughout their careers so that opportunities exist at all levels for development and growth. The importance of education cannot be overstated for both preparing your employees to excel in their roles and for fostering their growth and value to the organization over the long term.

Training and Competency Management

Nursing certifications can be a quality measure for your organization. Some certifications may be required, such as a state licensure, and others may reflect achievement beyond mandated requirements, such as private or specialty certifications. Providing certification opportunities for your staff reflects well on your organization, raises the level of competency of your teams, and provides growth opportunities that nurses seek as a benefit of employment.

Certifications can bring positive recognition in the form of organizational accreditations, grant funding, and reputation. Both your organization and individual nurses can seek to differentiate themselves through the attainment of specific certifications, which offer tanglible evidence of knowledge acquisition that puts them above their competitors and garners recognition from the healthcare field, patients, and the public.

nurses using a tablet during a training

Nurse Well-Being, Engagement, and Belonging

Reducing burnout: Felicia Sadler, Vice President of Quality at Relias, spoke with Authority Magazine about how hospitals and medical practices can minimize medical burnout. As healthcare organizations regroup and reassess after the pandemic, we can see that the prolonged crisis has tested the medical field nearly to its limits. Compounding an already competitive labor market, the pandemic worsened a shortage that persists, in part due to healthcare worker “burnout,” which Sadler defined as “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

Sadler noted that factors leading to burnout include unhealthy work settings that lead to high turnover, negative emotional health, team disruptions, harmful professional environments, work-life imbalance, and low satisfaction and engagement that may cause negative impacts on personal life. In contrast, Sadler explains that burnout is unlikely to happen when individuals have personal and professional satisfaction, feel valued, and know they are fully contributing to their organization’s outcomes. Simply put, these are professionals who are “fully engaged, passionate, and thriving in their roles.”

Identifying and addressing moral injury: A step further than burnout, moral injury occurs when a person feels they must take or witness actions that violate deeply held moral beliefs. For example, nurses who were unable to provide the care they believed patients needed during the pandemic may have experienced morally challenging situations that left them traumatized with lasting negative mental health effects.

As a way to start the conversation, our infographic lists the following seven ways to address moral injury in nurses:

  1. Start the conversation.
  2. Make psychological safety a priority.
  3. Build relationship-focused leadership skills.
  4. Empower nurses to lead change.
  5. Promote communication across your organization.
  6. Establish meaningful recognition programs.
  7. Foster career development.

While some of these may be more appropriate for your teams than others, they may all offer ways to provide the support needed to promote healing and recovery.

Short on Time? Get these Resources First

On-Demand Webinars: Nurse Leadership Topics

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources

How Relias Can Help

Hospitals and health systems that understand the importance of nursing leadership are better equipped to make an impact on patient safety, quality, and satisfaction. With the ever-changing healthcare landscape, nurses constantly face new challenges, practices, and opportunities. Having strong nurse leaders to help your organization navigate these changes boosts your retention and success.

Ready to learn more about how Relias can support your organization’s journey to healthcare excellence?

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