3 Ways to Retain Nursing Talent

When researching leadership strategies or nursing trends, it’s easy to get swept up in the sensationalism of nurse burnout, staffing shortages, and the financial burdens healthcare is under.  Of course, all three of these issues are cause for concern as they have had a significant effect on the nursing profession in recent years. However, one crucial aspect of clinical leadership that does not seem to be getting as much attention in the headlines is how to maintain a strong connection with your original purpose of becoming a nurse.  After all, every nurse leader provided bedside care at one point. And since nursing is not simply a profession that most “stumble into”, it is important to note that those who seek out nursing as a profession generally do so out of a desire to nurture and provide quality care. Some have even gone as far as to call nurses “compassion warriors” as a way to maintain a strong connection to their original mission of promoting a commitment to excellence throughout the course of their career.

And while this commitment to excellence is something that most clinical leaders are able to relate to, they can be prone to shifting their mindset to be more business focused. As nurse leaders progress through the different levels of management and leadership throughout their career, juggling the different demands of staffing, budgeting, care coordination, training, education, etc. can detract from one’s ability to reconnect with their original mission of being a “compassion warrior”. However, as the nursing industry as a whole is under mounting pressure to focus on productivity and financial outcomes, it is crucial for nursing leaders to maintain a strong connection to their purpose as nurses. Not only does this benefit the organization by promoting a commitment to excellence, but it is also a successful strategy for nurse leaders to attract and retain quality talent who shares their vision.

  1. Reclaim nurses as the “heart and soul” of healthcare. As hospitals face continuous pressure to increase patient throughput, nurses are also finding themselves under more pressure to treat more patients in a short amount of time. The caveat is that increased throughput may detract from a nurse’s ability to provide quality bedside care depending on the work environment. While nurses may face increased workloads caused by a variety of factors ranging from staffing shortages to organizational pressures to increased patient volumes, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that those who go into nursing do so because of a desire to care for and connect with others, rather than just complete tasks and move on to the next.
  2. How health systems can use ‘Commitment to Care’ to retain high quality nurses. In previous blogs, we have addressed professional burnout and retention strategies at length.  And while these things can play a significant role in nurse satisfaction, they fall short of addressing the hospital environment as whole. Of course, there will always be variation between how one manager or director runs a department compared to another. However, when attracting and retaining talent, nurses thrive in hospital systems that place a strong emphasis on maintaining a culture of care which then permeates into the work environment at every level. By valuing people over profit, leaders are able to create a culture of safety that promotes taking adequate break times, voicing unpopular opinions in order to advocate for patients when necessary, and build strong connections with colleagues that promote trust and respect amongst the team.
  3. Be your nurses’ biggest advocate. Unlike most other professions, having “a bad day” at work for a nurse can mean accompanying someone in their last moments or caring for someone at their most vulnerable. And while this is the sometimes-unfortunate nature of healthcare, prolonged exposure to stressful and traumatic cases can sometimes lead to compassion fatigue. Coined as the ‘loss of the ability to nurture’ is one of the negative consequences nurses must face as not only first-responders but also ‘sustained-responders’ who provide ongoing support throughout the course of care. As nurse leaders, it is crucial to provide nurses with appropriate resources to help minimize the negative consequences of compassion fatigue. Support strategies ranging from support groups to on-site counseling to art therapy are all effective approaches to help support and protect nurses from compassion fatigue.

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Sources: Horton-Deutsh, S. (May 2nd, 2018) 2018 Best And Worst States For Nurses

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