Nurse leaders are often challenged with retaining quality nursing staff. In fact, national turnover rates are on the rise. In 2015 the bedside RN turnover rate increased to, 16.4%, up from 11.2% in 2011 (2015 National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report). It’s not just experienced nurses that are leaving their roles.
Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS published findings from The RN Work Project, a 10-year panel study funded by Robert Wood Johnson, in a 2014 article entitled, ‘Nurse Turnover: The Revolving Door in Nursing‘. The study found the 1-year turnover rate among all newly licensed RNs was 17.5%, and the 2-year turnover rate was 33.5%. Similarly, in 2007, Kovner and colleagues found that 13% of newly licensed RNs had changed principal jobs after one year, and 37% reported that they felt ready to change jobs (American Journal of Nursing).
While many nurses can probably list the reasons that nurses leave their roles (e.g. insufficient staffing, increased stress, decreased job satisfaction, unhealthy work environments) there can be other factors that come into play as a new graduate nurse considers a job change. Take for example, the fact that the brand new nurse could have difficulty finding and landing a new job. When that occurs, what’s likely to happen? The graduate often will take any nursing job that they are offered- even if it is not an ideal fit.
So who’s responsibility is it to reduce nursing turnover? And how can we retain more new graduate nurses?
Organizations have definitely taken a successful stab at this problem with the institution of nurse residency programs. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) indicated 95.6% retention for residents involved in Nurse Residency Programs, which is a huge improvement from the national average 30% turnover rate. So- point noted. Create and offer residency programs for graduate nurses. But what else? What about the individual nurse themselves?
I’d like to refer back to a point brought up by Stokowski, referring to this notion that “newly licensed nurses who aren’t able to land those sought-after hospital jobs will continue to take whatever jobs they can find to acquire the experience needed to be hired by the hospital”. Can we give our new graduate nurses personal empowerment tips that they can use to increase their own chances of retention? I’d like to think so.
- Do Your Research to Find a Great Fit. This strategy includes a multi-pronged approach. First off, find support. Whether it be through an academic adviser, a business coach, or a mentor/peer group… you need support. This will help you brainstorm ideas as you search for a nursing role. Secondly, starting early with a professional network is key. The more people you know, the better. As you can tap into these nursing colleagues for referrals or job opportunities. Finally, research jobs that are out there. Don’t settle just because you have an offer. And the old myth related to requiring experience in a hospital before doing what you really want to do- that’s nonsense. In today’s world of healthcare reform, job possibilities are endless. As care moves out of the hospital and into the community, nurses are needed in a wide array of environments. Take Carmen Saunders for example. As a guest on the Your Next Shift podcast, Carmen shared ways to find and access jobs outside of the conventional hospital system. Figure out what you want to do and go for it!
- Balance Head with Heart in Your Decision. The second strategy blends the art with the science of nursing. Sure, doing your research, keeping organized notes, weighing the pros and cons, and taking action are all necessary aspects of getting a nursing job. Another crucial piece is often overlooked. This involves taking time to pause and really feel your ideal role. I use a three-step process that helps me take what I don’t want and turn it into what I do want. After I am crystal clear on my desired job, I use visualization mixed with massive action to reach my goals. The same can be done as we navigate through the application, interview, and hiring process. Balance the head decisions with what the heart wants. Doing this will help you find the job of your dreams!
- Leverage & Brand Your Strengths. We think about nursing and there is so much room. It’s expansive, even. Specialty upon specialty. Certifications galore. Then the levels… gosh, we can stay at the bedside, move to management, become a nursing leader, or enter into academia. The options are endless. Which is really freaking cool when we think about each nurse as a unique individual. Think about you- what are your strengths? Talents? Abilities? What experiences have you had that make you uniquely you? The beauty of us all being individuals is that we can find the job that is our perfect fit. Tap into your assets. Showcase these when you show up (whether it be on paper or in-person). It’s OK- even necessary- to toot your own horn. As Brittney Wilson likes to say, you are your own brand. You gotta be out there showing up as yourself, enjoying your life, and doing your best work- and guess what? You’ll find that perfect career!
What did we miss? I’d love to hear what tips you would offer to new graduate nurses about finding the ‘dream job’ in the comments below. 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.