In hospitals across the country, experienced nurses provide orientation to an ever-revolving door of new hires. The need to retain beside nurses is well known and solutions widely researched. Yet, work conditions in acute care settings are slow to improve and many nurses turn away (or run) from bedside nursing.
According to NSI Nursing Solutions, Inc., hospitals saw the highest turnover rates in 2018 when compared to the last 10 years. From 2014-2018, hospitals turned over a staggering average of 87.7% of staff. While most hospitals identify nurse retention in key strategic planning, it is not followed through in operational practice and planning. According to the report, only 43.2% of hospitals have put their strategic plan into formal retention strategies.
Do Graduate Programs Play a Role?
I recently read an editorial, authored by Maureen Kennedy, MA RN FAAN in the American Journal of Nursing, questioning if the push by colleges for students to attend graduate or doctorate nurse practitioner programs is contributing to the devaluing of bedside nurses. Research has clearly shown hospital working conditions to be the primary reason nurses are leaving the bedside. Most of us have experienced long hours, lack of flexibility and poor leadership while working in acute care at some point in our careers. And, the large need for advanced practice nurses in today’s healthcare environment, as well as the need for qualified nurse faculty, is undisputed.
Hospitals typically don’t have work environments that offer nurse autonomy or promote professional practices. Nurses may see an advanced degree as offering job opportunities that are more supportive, with greater autonomy and less stress. The editorial’s author summarized the issue by quoting a colleague:
Keeping Nurses at the Bedside
Healthleaders magazine recently published an article sharing what three nurse executives did to retain RNs with the right skills and experience needed to deliver high quality care. Here are a few of the ways the executives improved their facility’s retention rates for the long haul.
Improve the Organizations Reputation
Rush Oak Park Hospital in Illinois was plagued with a negative reputation because of consistently poor quality outcomes. The hospital’s reputation bled into the work environment resulting in nurse dissatisfaction. In addition, there was a “revolving door” of chief nursing officers leading to inconsistent leadership and vision. Karen Mayer, chief nursing officer, knew the work environment needed to change and hospital leadership was up to the challenge. Over a period of years, leadership worked to improve quality indicators to improve patient care and nursing job satisfaction. After many years, turnover rates decreased from 22% to just 8.3%.
Entice Nurses Back to the Bedside
Press Ganey’s 2017 National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators RN Survey found newly licensed nurses and those who have been in practice 2-4 years at highest risk for attrition. Claire M. Zangerie, chief nursing executive at Allegheny Health Network saw the same trend within her organization. Under her direction, the RetuRN to Practice Program was created to address some of the issues leading to attrition. The program was designed to attract nurses who have stepped away from nursing and want to return to the bedside. As a result, the workload of all nursing staff was successfully lessened.
Attract nurses with flexible scheduling
RetuRN participants offer managers at least 3 hours availability at any time, on any day, day shift or night or any weekend or holiday. The nurses help ease workload in high need areas and perform “rover-type” duties, such as admissions, discharges, patient education, covering other nurses’ patients for breaks or for continuing education. Extensive on-boarding, remediation, training and support is offered to RetuRN participants to ease the transition back to the bedside.
Support Professional Development and Work Environment
Kelly Johnson, vice president, patient care services and chief nursing officer at Stanford Children’s Health understands a healthy work environment and professional development programs are critical to retaining nurses. Therefore, Johnson developed and implemented several programs to support nurses in various stages of their career. Nurses have opportunities to continue growing through personal success plans, a succession planning development program, certificate and advanced degree programs.
The organization has also committed to creating a healthy work environment and culture. This includes initiatives embracing HeartMath concepts that empower employees to “self regulate emotions and behaviors to reduce stress, increase resilience, and unlock their natural intuitive guidance for making more effective choices”. The goal is to create a work environment that is caring and healing, where nurses care for each other and themselves.
What programs or initiatives have you experienced that improved the work environment of bedside nurses?
NSI Nursing Solutions 2019 National Healthcare Retention Report
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