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Great Resignation

How HR Teams in Healthcare are Combating Nursing Shortages

by Nayya Marketing November 23, 2022

Nurse turnover has been plaguing the healthcare industry for decades, and the problem shows no signs of improving any time soon. Driven by the pandemic and a rise in travel nursing, the nursing shortage looms large and is projected to intensify in the next few years.

According to a recent Clinician of the Future report, 47% of nurses plan to leave the profession within the next three years. This study is the latest in a stream of surveys showing patients' plight amid a catastrophic nursing shortage. In another graduate nurses survey, 30% of the respondents said they will leave during their first year, increasing to 57% within the second year of practice.

And with the average cost of turnover per nurse between $37,000 and $57,000, HR teams are looking for ways to improve the situation. This article will explore strategies that HR teams can employ to improve nursing retention. But first, why are nurses leaving the profession?

Causes of High Nurse Turnover

There are many reasons why nurses are increasingly leaving the profession. Some of the most common reasons for the low nurse retention rates include:

1. Rise of Travel Nurses Nearly every hospital in the country is experiencing nursing shortages as a result of their staff nurses switching to travel nurses. Travel nursing pays handsomely, and on top of this, travel nursing agencies often offer flexible working hours and competitive pay — a travel nurse can net over $10,000 a week. Considering the average pay staff nurses make, not to forget the rising cases of burnout among staff nurses nationwide, it makes sense why travel nursing is on the rise. This, however, contributes to nursing shortages in hospitals.

2. Toxic Workplace Culture From long working hours and low pay, to bullying and harassment, toxic behaviors exist in many healthcare facilities. On top of that, nurses face threats of anger and violence from patients and their families. For the sake of their emotional, financial, and physical health, few nurses are willing to put up with such predicaments for long. On average, 57 nurses are assaulted every day in the U.S. That's two nurses attacked every hour, according to a Press Ganey analysis using data from 2022.

3. Nurse Burnout A combination of long working hours, heavy caseloads, and on-the-job stressors can affect nurse retention. In fact, 35% of nurses responding to the 2021 Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction survey reported they felt burned out. They also found that nurses who work for shifts longer than 12 hours are more likely to quit due to burnout.

4. Unclear Opportunities for Career Growth and Advancement Nurses may not know about the opportunities that their employer provides for career growth. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities provide solutions for career advancement and/or tuition reimbursement for further schooling, but their faculty and staff don’t know that these options are available to them.

Many nurses aspire to grow professionally and gain leadership positions. For some, this means becoming a lead nurse or even a lead practitioner. Others want to move to specialties, such as pediatric care or specific disease care. If they feel they aren't moving up the career ladder, they may quit and look for job elsewhere. Bringing attention to these career or education advancement benefits is key for hospitals and health systems.

How HR Teams in Healthcare are Combating Nursing Shortages

To combat the rising nursing shortages in hospitals, HR professionals are employing many strategies to boost retention. We'll look at these strategies in this section.

1. Improving the Onboarding Process

It all starts with onboarding. A streamlined onboarding process can contribute to higher retention. Some healthcare facilities across the country have introduced pilot programs that have seen better nurse retention as their onboarding processes are streamlined and standardized.

With a streamlined onboarding program, nurses can have all their questions answered and their expectations clearly defined. The onboarding process gives them insights into what to expect in the facility. A good onboarding program can foster fruitful relationships, leading to improved job retention.

2. Rewarding Longevity and Excellence

To foster retention, many healthcare facilities are providing retention bonuses and other incentives to show appreciation to nurses who have been with the facility for a long time.

Long-term nurses deserve recognition, it's important to show them you value them in special ways. HR teams are implementing strategies to highlight milestones with special gifts. From retention bonuses to award banquets and achievement benefits, these simple gestures of appreciation can go a long way toward decreasing nursing turnover.

3. Providing Emotional Wellness and Mental Health Support During a crisis, the adverse mental health impact on nurses can increase the risk of high staff turnover. Nurses' anxiety and stress can result from job security fears, toxic work culture, stress from strenuous work, and more.

To offer emotional wellness, healthcare facilities must develop interventions that support their nurses' emotional wellness and mental health.

Today, many medical facilities have mental health programs where nurses meet mentors outside the system. Others offer free or discounted counseling sessions and a directory of therapy professionals where their staff can seek help.

4. Actively Supporting Career Development One of the top reasons why nurses leave is the lack of growth opportunities. With this in mind, HR professionals are increasingly extending learning and growth opportunities to their nurses. Some are providing coaches that mentor, provide career pathing, and guide nurses toward growth opportunities in their organizations.

Others are providing appropriate training to help nurses advance their skills and move into different specialties. For example, moving from general care to the operating room is difficult for nurses without prior training. Organizations are offering training programs to help nurses acquire new skills within their profession and advance to new roles.

Many hospitals and health systems already have benefits in place that support further education and career development, so it becomes about bringing light to these programs that are already in place. A decision support tool, like Nayya, can bring awareness to the benefits that you're organization is offering, and help nurses understand which benefits are the best for their unique situation and goals.

5. Creating a Positive Work Environment A toxic work culture leads to mental health issues and burnout among nurses. To reduce the likelihood of burnout and improve employee retention, many healthcare facilities have worked on their policies to create a positive work environment. A good organizational culture is key to nurses' production and retention. HR professionals can improve retention by developing a culture that makes the nurses feel supported and able to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.

Wrapping Up

Healthcare facilities can combat retention challenges by improving onboarding, rewarding longevity, providing mental health support, actively supporting career development, and creating a positive work environment.

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