I have met many of today’s influential nurse leaders, human resource professionals and healthcare executives, and I’ve spoken to hundreds, possibly thousands, of business experts.
I’ve often wondered why these business power houses all struggle with the same nagging issue – recruiting and retaining skilled nurses – and the reason why they repeat the same disastrous mistakes.
The demonstration inspired me to write”7 most common nurse retention errors,” bringing together inspirations in the many specialists I have met, such as Thieman. I hope this simple, but meaningful guide helps organizations find practical solutions to the real difficulty of hiring and retaining quality nurses.
How many of the 7 most common mistakes can you recognize in your organization?
1. Inadequate staffing levels
The reasons are many: staffing cutbacks in the 1990s used to offset rising healthcare costs, a lack of teaching nurses at colleges, and possibly even less interest in the profession by Millennials. Despite the reason, the result is the same whenever there’s a prolonged period of inadequate nurse staffing levels. As existing staff members consume the work load, stress increases and job satisfaction declines, leading to greater turnover. Therefore the cycle continues. We’ve been contacted by physicians that have attempted for years to maintain appropriate nurse-to-patient ratios, but despite their efforts, the problem worsened. They are frustrated; nurses are unhappy, and patient satisfaction suffers, along with patient safety.
Together with its complexities and continuous change, today’s health environment demands a new approach. One focused on a multi-faceted recruiting and retention plan that begins by defining the proper nurse staffing ratios to your facility, sets recruiting and retention goals and uses proven short-term and long-term recruiting procedures.
Many clients find that even though they have training programs in place, results are mixed. Nurse trainees are not as productive or satisfied with their new positions as hoped. Why? It may be because training is not sufficiently customized to prepare nurses to the full-range of duties and expectations which will ultimately determine success in their own organization.
I recommend our clients adopt a nurse preceptor program. Start by asking yourself,”Who in my business do I need more of?” They are strong nurses who willingly participate.
Bear in mind, a good nurse isn’t necessarily a fantastic trainer. We teach our nurse placements specific communication skills and learning software to prepare them for preceptor functions. Start looking for these skills in your employees or consider training for them. Then, don’t forget to adjust your preceptors’ workloads to account for their new responsibilities, so they don’t experience rapid burnout.
3. Cultural calamity
Every organization has dominant values, beliefs and attitudes that define it and direct its practices. A worker who believes in those values strengthens the business, as well as fellow co-workers. In a high-stress, fast-paced environment where co-workers rely on a fully functioning team, cultural fit is crucial. So, whether you are onboarding staff or relying upon an agency to train traveling or international nurses, start looking for a strong clinical and cultural program matched to your own organization. Ask how physicians on assignment are trained, so you know they will fit easily into the U.S. healthcare system and understand the requirements of American patients. Are your nurses on assignment willing to effectively address Americans’ health concerns and expectations of their healthcare providers? Do they understand the role of relationships and compassion?
Ensuring cultural orientation to your organization will strengthen your nurse group’s performance and bolster long-term retention.
4. Lagging compensation and livelihood opportunities
Not everyone is motivated by money, but recruiting and retention problems are all but guaranteed if your nurse compensation package does not keep pace with market competitors. So, whether it’s salary, bonuses, flex schedules or time-off, know what your competitors are offering and match or exceed that to ensure you don’t lose your best nurses.
5. Strategic planning that is not
The best wineries are usually the hardest to recruit, and even harder to retain. You require a plan. Engage all stakeholders in developing your strategic solutions, particularly nurses on the ground. Think beyond your standard approach. Consider all options before choosing what works best for your organization. Are hiring bonuses workable? Will they help build a long-term, stable nurse staff? What role will international nurses play? How will you gauge the effectiveness of your strategies?
6. Boomers versus Millennials
By now, most of us know that these two very different generations communicate, think and work, well… very differently. But, what does that mean to your organization and how have you prepared your nurse team? Developing relationships beyond our comfortable, market groups is not natural for adults – particularly Boomers. After all, we have spent plenty of time creating particular styles and patterns, and we appreciate those that think the same. Without sufficient motivation, that will not change. To maximize each generation’s contribution, your company needs to help facilitate the dialogue that fosters understanding and appreciation for each group’s contribution. Only then will you have a fully working, cross-generational team.
7. Overly aggressive competitors
A client located in one state complained to me that, when he thinks he’s winning the nurse-shortage struggle, a competitor from a neighboring state stakes out in a nearby hotel, and interviews and recruits his nurses – offering hiring bonuses and better work schedules. My response to that is refer to items 1 through 6 above.