One challenge that today’s nursing leader faces is how to engage clinical staff in process change. We know that balancing patient care demands, adjusting to fluctuating staff and patient volumes, working with interdisciplinary colleagues, and feeling comfortable with all of the policies and procedures can be challenging. When nursing leadership struggles to engage clinical nurses patient outcomes and satisfaction, as well as employee retention suffers.

In 2014, Cornerstone OnDemand conducted a primary research study of employee engagement in healthcare organizations in conjunction with an independent, third-party research firm. Researchers asked 482 participants about four key topics:

  1. The engagement levels of employees in healthcare organizations
  2. Organizations’ readiness to address low engagement levels
  3. Whether human capital management (HCM) software is being used in these organizations
  4. Perceptions regarding the ROI of investments in employee training.

Engage Clinical Nurses: Innovative Ways for Nursing Leaders to Sustain Change #nursingfromwithin #YourNextShiftFull findings and information can be found by clicking here, however, what was interesting is that almost half of the respondents reported they were ‘somewhat engaged’ or ‘not very engaged’. Sure, this research is reporting out on all healthcare professionals, not just nurses. And how many of us can agree that our nursing staff battles with similar obstacles?

What can we do to engage our clinical staff? How can we get them to see the value of change process, admidst the valuable work they do and the competing priorities that take their time?

  1. Meet Them Where They’re At. This may sound obvious, and daunting, however nurses (as we know) are busy. They are taking care of patients, first and foremost, 24/7. For one, they may not be able to get off of the unit for a shared governance meeting. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be heard. Secondly, we need to ask for their thoughts and opinions. And then, when we do, follow up on them. For example, if you are trying to figure out a way to get your clinical nurses engaged in nursing research- do what these researchers did at a large comprehensive cancer center in the southern United States. They conducted a Delphi survey to find out nursing research priorities and engage their nurses in research topics that were of interest to them.
  2. Get Tech Savvy. Another scary idea, for many of us, I’m sure. However, as we know the generational face of nursing (of the globe) as we know it is shifting. Nurses are entering the workforce from the (gulp) millennial generation and instead of looking down on their social media styles of communication, maybe we can learn something from them. Again, we know our nursing staff is stretched thin. If we are struggling to get clinical nurses to engage in shared governance councils, can we add a digital look and feel to how we meet? We may be able to utilize online social media platforms to create discussion groups. Places like LinkedIn, Facebook and Next Wave Connect can house these for us for free (and settings can be set to private to keep group members to your nursing teams). For more ways to tap into the millennial knowledge base, see this article on LinkedIn Pulse on the ways we can learn from our younger generations of nurses.
  3. Make It Fun. Finally, my biggest soap box moment comes down to enjoyment. If the clinical nurse isn’t interested in the topic or enjoying themselves- they are less likely to add more to their plate. We’ve got to utilize our staff’s strengths and tap into the resources that are already there. If you hear from a nurse manager that someone on their team is great at graphic design, can you engage that nurse in the design and creation of nursing brochures for Nurse’s Week festivities? If you come across a nurse who is also fundraising for a cause in their community, maybe they know a thing or two about raising money. We’ve got to know our nurses and what lights them up- so that we can access all of this great value both inside and outside of the nursing environments we practice in.

What would you add to this list? How have you succeeded in getting your clinical nurses engaged in organizational change? What has worked at your institution? Share a comment below so that other readers can learn from your experience.

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout 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.

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

“I’m a Nurse, but I’m Not Sure I LOVE Nursing Anymore! Can You Help Me?”


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