One of the biggest challenges faced by today’s nursing leader is retaining quality staff. Nurses come into the profession with their perception of the role and find, once involved in a job as a nurse, that this may be different than what they had expected.
I often receive emails from nurses, sharing with me their biggest challenge as it relates to their nursing careers. I’d like to share some of these emails with you (anonymous and slightly changed to protect privacy) so that you can read for yourself the words of nursing staff.
“The main challenge I seem to have in enjoying my career is the added demands my manager puts on me, which takes away from the time I can spend with patients.”
“I got into nursing because of my love for integrative therapies. I live in a city where integrative health is very well accepted, but the department of the hospital that I work in does not seem quite up-to-speed on this. A very small team of co-workers and I are putting together a proposal self-care/mindfulness training for our staff, but I am feeling discouraged because of funding/politics.”
“My biggest obstacle to enjoying my nursing career is the negativity of my nurse and physician colleagues. I am in nursing informatics and help providers with orders, documents and flow sheets in the electronic medical record. Part of my job is to make sure we follow regulatory agency and policy requirements. The whining and complaining are worthy of Oscar nominations! It is difficult to help when you are harshly criticized for just doing your job.”
While the three scenarios presented above are quite different, there is a common theme. The nurses who emailed me feel torn. Pulled in one direction while wanting to go in another. Split down the middle and feeling powerless by the lack of control. The inability to do something about what they want to change and/or impact makes them feel frustrated by their work.
This is an all too common theme in nursing. I hear it in the emails I receive. I learn about it from the groups I host on social media, where nurses are posting their frustrations and challenges. I talk to people over the phone and in person. I am constantly being told ‘what’s wrong’ and wonder… how can we make it right?
As a nurse leader, there is one thing that must be done to support the nursing staff. Offer solutions.
Yes, in a time when resources are scarce, budgets are cut and staffing is low it is hard to remain optimistic and solution oriented. Yet it is imperative for our nursing leadership to do so in order to engage and continue to inspire nurses working in this profession.
And I do agree- it cannot only come from the leadership. Nurses at every level must take responsibility for the actions at work. If nurses want a more enjoyable workplace, then each one of us has got to be a part of the solution.
- Listen. The first step to take involves figuring out what the nursing staff wants. We need to ask and then, we need to listen. As a leader, we must hear what is being said and what is not. We need to feel the energy of a group, observe the interactions of a team, and be aware of what’s going on behind the scenes of a workplace. Just in asking, we receive. As was shown above, I ask nurses about their biggest challenge in their career when they sign up for my email newsletter. Then sometimes they write back and respond. We need to have the courage to ask our nursing staff what they want and need and be ready to listen.
- Learn. A really cool thing that happens when we take the time to pause and listen is that we learn. We learn a whole lot about the nurses we employ! And we can ask them things unrelated to work as well. A great way to be an effective nurse leader is to get to know your nursing team outside of the workplace. What are the nurses good at? Who has a really creative hobby? What family do they have in the community? To keep quality staff, you have to get to know them first.
- Leverage. Now here’s where it all comes together. You listen and learn about the nursing staff and now, as a nurse leader, you get to act. Once you know more about the strengths your nurses posses you can tap into them. A nurse really loves to write? Get him or her involved in an abstract writing or publication course. A nurse is very outgoing and articulate? Encourage them to present at a national or international conference. Utilize strengths to bring more value to your team. The nurse who is involved in projects, activities, and group work is one that is much more likely to stay.
What did we miss? I’d love to hear additional suggestions from you in the comments below on how we can help your nursing teams love the profession of nursing again. Thanks for reading!
About the Author: As a keynote speaker, bestselling author and virtual conference host, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. During the National Nurse’s Week online conference, ‘The Art of Nursing‘, Elizabeth supports nurses in achieving professional goals of continued learning and development. Click here to find out more about how The Art of Nursing appreciates and celebrates our profession in a meaningful way.