Post COVID-19: How Do We Lead Nurses in the New Normal?

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic left nursing with numerous open positions. Healthcare is asking questions about how to fill them and how leadership roles should guide, inspire, and engage the next generation. Let us start the conversation.

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After two and a half years of dealing with the enormous physical and emotional weight of covid, a light is beginning to show. We have lost many of our experienced nurses throughout the covid pandemic. This created a huge gap in the experience level of nursing today. Nurses who were the go-to for standards of care, policy, and general nursing care experience were leaving. They either retired, found a new opportunity, or changed professions entirely. The bleeding of nurses has now started to become more of a trickle. Now comes the work of rebuilding. Getting nursing back to the "normal" we all knew ... before covid. The problem is we cannot go back. The world has changed, we have changed, and healthcare has changed.

Leading bedside nurses encompasses skill, patience, and time and lets us not forget energy. CNOs, Directors, and Managers have the task of directing the paths that lie before us in our new normal of nursing. Clinical leaders such as Assistant Managers, Clinical Supervisors, Clinical Specialists, Clinical Educators, Charge Nurses, and others have the task of leading nurses at the clinical level. Connecting with your staff is more important than ever before in nursing. Cultivating a mindset of care and compassion, not only with patients but with each other. The question now becomes, how can nurse leaders navigate, inspire, and grow staff through this new normal of healthcare?

Leadership is now more important than ever to direct and cultivate a new generation of nurses. To do this, we must focus on developing leadership by learning the skills to retain, engage, stimulate, and mentor staff while also maintaining high-quality outcomes. By no means, an easy task. We are not born with directions on how to lead the next generation of nurses. Current and emerging nurse leaders need organizational education to develop and grow their leadership styles. There are several types of leadership models from which to choose. Niinihuhta and Haggman- Laitila1 reviewed the impact a leadership style has on a nurse's work-related well-being or burnout. They found that a relational leadership style such as transformational, authentic, ethical, and servant was more supportive of nurses, thereby improving retention1. Connecting to staff with compassion and purpose and finding and developing a style that fits well with you may take time to develop. To gain and sustain nurse retention in this new normal environment, the continuous engagement and development of staff nurses and nurse leaders should be an essential focal point in every organization.

In this new era of rebuilding healthcare nursing numbers, bring your thinking caps out. How do we attract nurses? How do we keep nurses? Many hospitals have programs for loan repayment, pay increases, sign-on bonuses, and career ladders. Do they work? And for how long? It is so important for organizations to support leadership by giving them the tools to be able to grow, support, and retain nurses.

These ideas and questions are to stimulate conversations that are taking place in every healthcare setting. What are the best ways to lead and grow nurses who are starting their careers? How clinical leadership is supported will look different in each healthcare facility, according to their individual needs. However, the goal is the same, grow and retain nurses at the bedside. A nurse leader's paramount goal should be to open the door to a nurse's potential, motivation, and compassion.

Ideas to Improve Staff Retention

Touch Base

Meetings are about connecting with staff, building relationships, and learning the needs of staff. Working towards developing their professional goals and helping to guide them there.

Shared Governance/ Unit Council

Having an organized group that works together to improve quality and patient care. Stimulating and engaging staff to develop projects that improve patient outcomes and develop teamwork and leadership skills. Unit-based councils can be valuable in addressing issues in the day-to-day workings of a unit. 


Filling the gap and improving retention. Mentoring helps nurses build confidence, develop critical thinking and improve retention. It can be social or clinically focused with new or experienced nurses. 


1A systematic review of the relationships between nurse leaders' leadership styles and nurses' work-related well-being

Mentoring the working nurse: a scoping review

Magnet Tips and Tricks. Mentoring or Succession Planning: Which is it?

Touch Base Meetings: Why and How They Work (+ Template)

Nursing Shared Governance

How To Support Nurses And Raise Nurse Retention Rates

EOC has 42 years experience as a MSN and specializes in ICU.

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Kitiger, RN

1,811 Posts

Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics. Has 44 years experience.

These three ideas look like more work for the nurses. More meetings. More projects and counsels. And have them engaged in mentoring, too? Or is the mentoring coming from the clinical leadership?

I don't work in the hospital, but the refrain that I hear most often is that the workload is too high. Nurses are required to care for so many patients that they can only try to keep the patients safe and get the basics done. There isn't enough time to give good nursing care. And mentoring takes up even more time.

More meetings will not help. 

Emergent, RN

2 Articles; 4,078 Posts

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.

Some excellent nurses can't tolerate suffocating masks for 12 hrs straight. Get rid of that requirement and there might be a change. Meanwhile, I'll keep my job at the data center build,  where I get to watch Netflix for most of my shift,  mask free...

Kitiger, RN

1,811 Posts

Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics. Has 44 years experience.
Emergent said:

Some excellent nurses can't tolerate suffocating masks for 12 hrs straight. Get rid of that requirement and there might be a change. Meanwhile, I'll keep my job at the data center build,  where I get to watch Netflix for most of my shift,  mask free...

My home health agency told us that beginning in January, we would no longer have to wear masks as long as we were symptom-free. And as long as the parents were OK with us not wearing masks. 

Specializes in ICU. Has 7 years experience.

I think the best methods to move forward in a post-COVID medical field is to get back to basics.

Students need to focus back on the detail of assessments, speaking with patients and maintaining a good report with physicians.

Debriefing and daily meetings will help. Having a charge nurse or at least an assistant manager on the floor will help in being a resource for new nurses.

And the key to teaching new nurses and promoting a healthy work environment is to maintain good communication on your unit. The respect that the mature nurses on the unit have for their profession and the detail-orientation in which they work - will wear off on the novice nurses.

Make sure there are individuals on the unit who promote that quality of care that each patient deserves.