Many hospitals today are struggling to find and retain nurses. The reasons are many: staffing cutbacks in the 1990s used to offset rising healthcare costs, a shortage of teaching nurses at colleges, and perhaps even less interest in the profession by Millennials. Despite the cause, the outcome is the same whenever there is a prolonged period of inadequate nurse staffing levels. As existing staff members absorb the work load, stress increases and job satisfaction declines, resulting in greater turnover. And so the cycle continues. We’ve been contacted by hospitals that have tried for years to maintain proper nurse-to-patient ratios, but despite their efforts, the problem worsened. They’re frustrated; nurses are unhappy, and patient satisfaction suffers, along with patient safety.
With all its complexities and constant change, today’s healthcare environment requires a new approach. One focused on a multi-faceted recruiting and retention plan that begins by defining the proper nurse staffing ratios for your facility, sets recruiting and retention targets and uses proven short-term and long-term recruiting methods.
Many clients find that although 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 isn’t sufficiently customized to prepare nurses for the full-range of duties and expectations that will ultimately determine success at their organization.
What better way to learn this than from a co-worker and fellow nurse currently succeeding in the job. I recommend our clients adopt a nurse preceptor program. Begin by asking yourself, “Who in my organization do I want more of?” Then narrow your candidate pool by determining who has the temperament to teach. These are your preceptors. They are strong nurses who willingly participate.
Keep in mind, a good nurse is not necessarily a good trainer. We teach all our nurse placements specific communication skills and learning applications to prepare them for preceptor roles. Look 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.
Every organization has dominant values, beliefs and attitudes that define it and guide its practices. A worker who believes in those values strengthens the organization, as well as fellow co-workers. But, one who is out of step with company culture will bring down morale and inhibit your nurse team’s effectiveness. In a high-stress, fast-paced environment where co-workers rely on a fully functioning team, cultural fit is crucial. So, whether you’re onboarding staff or relying on an agency to train traveling or international nurses, look for both a strong clinical and cultural program matched to your organization. Ask how nurses on assignment are trained, so you know they will fit smoothly into the U.S. healthcare system and understand the needs of American patients. Are your nurses on assignment prepared to effectively address Americans’ health concerns and expectations of their healthcare providers? Do they understand the role of relationships and empathy?
Ensuring cultural alignment to your organization will strengthen your nurse team’s performance and bolster long-term retention.
Not everyone is motivated by money, but recruiting and retention problems are all but guaranteed if your nurse compensation package doesn’t keep pace with market competitors. Keep in mind, compensation means different things to different people. 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.
The best nurses are usually the hardest to recruit, and even tougher to retain. You need a plan. Engage all stakeholders in developing your strategic solutions, especially nurses on the floor. Think beyond your standard approach. Consider all options before deciding what works best for your organization. Are hiring bonuses viable? Will they help build a long-term, stable nurse team? What role will international nurses play? How will you measure the effectiveness of your strategies?
By now, we all know that these two very different generations communicate, work and think, well… very differently. But, what does that mean to your organization and how have you prepared your nurse team? Developing relationships outside of our comfortable, niche groups is not natural for most adults – especially Boomers. After all, we’ve spent a lot of time developing certain styles and patterns, and we appreciate those that think the same. Without sufficient motivation, that won’t change. Boomers must look beyond “the lack of work ethic” they see in younger counterparts, and Millennials must think beyond “Boomers just resisting change.” To maximize each generation’s contribution, your organization must help facilitate the dialogue that fosters understanding and appreciation for each group’s contribution. Only then will you have a fully functioning, cross-generational team.
A client located in one state complained to me that, when he thinks he’s winning the nurse-shortage battle, a competitor from a neighboring state stakes out in a nearby hotel, and recruits and interviews his nurses – offering hiring bonuses and better work schedules. My response to that is refer to items 1 through 6 above.