While there have been nursing shortages in the past, today’s staffing problem is unlike anything seen before – namely because it’s not just driven by a lack of educated nurses. Instead, this shortage stems from the plethora of opportunities nurses have to switch career paths, as a result of new care delivery models.
As such, hospitals are finding it challenging to maintain their staff and keep appropriate staffing levels. To add fuel to the fire, nearly half of today’s RNs will be at traditional retirement age by 2020, removing decades of knowledge and experience while leaving a trench of open positions in their wake.
Many hospital nursing leaders are at a loss as to how they can retain top talent in today’s healthcare landscape. A recent forum hosted by HealthLeaders Media addressed this issue and offered practical strategies for CNOs, including:
- Prioritizing relationships and organizational contributions over “traditional” benefits such as sign-on bonuses. While initial bonuses often help secure someone to fill a role, they are rarely linked with long-term retention. Instead, nurses must feel valued and know they are doing work that is meaningful, according to Pamela Dunley, MBA, MS, RN, CENP, president and CEO at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital.
- Understanding the value of autonomy. The notion of letting workers set their own hours is being explored in other industries – primarily in start-up companies – but is now creeping into nursing. Some hospitals are moving away from traditional staffing schedules and implementing a shift bidding process to fill open shifts.
- Creating a positive work environment for nurses. Nurses are often personally invested in their patients and don’t have the ability to “walk away” mentally when their shift ends. Organizations should be receptive to feedback and ensure nurses feel like their issues are being heard. This is essential to preventing nursing burnout.
While these strategies won’t work in every circumstance, the underlying commonality is listening to employees and addressing concerns. Being flexible is essential to successfully navigating the current nursing shortage and ensuring that excellent care delivery continues across the country.