In email marketing, a common strategy used to tap into your market’s wants and needs is to ask this question: ‘What keeps you up at night?’ Imagine if this question was asked of nursing leadership. ‘When it comes to your nursing staff, what’s the one thing that keeps you up at night?’ While there may be an interesting variety of responses, I would like to suggest one that tops the list:
“Retaining my staff.”
Further, retaining quality nursing staff. Keeping my staff happy, healthy and engaged. Because we know that a satisfied employee equals satisfied patients. To take this one step further- nurses significantly impact hospital outcomes, according to a study published in Health Care Management Review.
So it would seem crucial to keep good staff. In fact, these nurse authors in England encourage we pay as much attention to the nurse’s experience as we do the patient’s. They describe the notion that an employee who is engaged with their work is more likely to show up, stay committed and perform better. When nursing staff feel satisfied with their work environments they form a bond. This relationship creates a sense of obligation to the workplace. Nurses feel reconnected to the profession and are happy to come to work.
If we know this intellectually, I would suggest there is a deeper question that arises, which I will get to in a moment. Before I do, I want to point out the severity of this topic of satisfaction and nursing engagement. Researchers in Canada found that brand new nurses with an “average years of nursing was 1.04, the emotional exhaustion average was 2.90, meaning that they are already approaching severe burnout”. This team was especially interested in new graduate nurses as they were studying the impact that authentic leadership had on burnout, bullying and retention.
Let’s get back to our core question eluded to above. Intellectually we can agree that nurse satisfaction and engagement impacts retention. We see this as crucial to retaining quality staff. So the question arises: what do we actually do about it? I’d like to offer some support to nursing leaders below.
- Leverage Strengths. In my years of working with hundreds of nurses, both on and offline, I have noticed a common theme. Because of our nature to care and support… at times, we try to do it all. And fail. Sure, a nurse can come up with a handy workaround and perform the role of everyone on the healthcare team. But is this a good thing? Yes, we want our nursing staff to be skilled in many domains- AND what if you tapped into the individual strengths of each employee? As unique human beings, each nurse has certain qualities or traits which they excel in. In order to engage and retain the best staff, tap into these assets. If a nurse has an outgoing personality and loves to teach, utilize these skills in an educator role. Ensure each nurse is in the position that allows you to leverage their strengths. This will be good not only for the organization as a whole… it will energize each individual nurse on your team.
- Provide Value. Nurses are smart people. Very smart, actually. And what I have seen is that when simply told what to do without the reason ‘why’ behind it, nurses push back. Or if we provide monotonous training that does not simulate the lifelong learner, we receive poor attendance and engagement. It’s important to figure out what your nursing staff finds interesting. Ask them what they want to learn about. Provide valuable opportunities that can support their professional development and personal growth. And sure, the budget is something to consider here. However, here is a chance to get creative and have some fun testing innovative approaches!
- Cultivate Relationships. Now depending on the size of your organization, this may seem overwhelming and unlikely. However, getting to know as many of your nurses as possible is imperative. It makes the nursing staff feel important and valued. And it’s a great way to tap into individual strengths, as mentioned above. Growing your professional network doesn’t have to stop at work. Attending conferences, growing your LinkedIn connections or being active in nursing associations are all great ways to increase visibility. Think about it- what do nurses love to do with their patients (when they have time)? Get to know them! Talk and teach. Answer questions and build rapport. Do the same with your nursing staff and your team will experience greater engagement.
I’d love to hear from our readers. What tips above have you tried and what was your experience like? What are some other suggestions you can add to this list? Please share a comment below so we can support each other in engaging and retaining quality nursing staff.
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.