The healthcare industry workforce has experienced its fair share of trials over the past five years. Across the United States and around the world, countless healthcare professionals are still recovering from the significant stresses imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. And that’s only one facet of the large-scale increases in stress and difficulty that have plagued our healthcare workers in recent years. From increased regulatory pressures to poor working conditions to widespread burnout, nurses are leaving their careers in droves.
If you are an HR professional in a healthcare organization, this leaves you with a tough responsibility: reducing the turnover rates amongst your nursing teams. How do you manage to combat such significant, industry-wide problems? Thankfully, there are a number of strategies you can employ to reduce nursing turnover rates within your organization and help your nurses thrive in their roles. Here are some of the best ways to retain your nurses.
Though “burnout” is a buzzword commonly encountered in today’s corporate keynotes and workplace infographics, burnout is a relatively misunderstood concept. Burnout can be caused by a variety of factors. These can include demanding workloads, working overtime, inadequate compensation, poor management, insufficient congruence between organizational vision and individual responsibilities, negative workplace culture, or unsafe working conditions.
Burnout rates are high in the healthcare industry when compared to other economic sectors and are especially high for nurses. This is often because the average working conditions healthcare professionals experience often include unsustainable levels of stress and emotional difficulties, high demands, long hours, and unhealthy workplace cultures. These problems have caused countless nurses to leave their careers prematurely. Burnout can be a significant reason for your nursing turnover.
To combat burnout in your organization, it’s important to take an objective look at how your organization sizes up against the list of burnout causes above. Don’t just take your own perspective into account when performing this analysis. Ask your workforce about their experiences. Remember — when engaging with burnout and your nurses’ evaluations, perception is reality.
Create a Culture of Decision-Making Best Practice
One significant component of management that influences how employees regard their workplace is the way an organization makes decisions. Decision-making affects hiring and firing, policy, procedures, team formation and management, crisis reactions, strategy, long-term planning, workplace conditions, and just about every other aspect of the professional healthcare environment. Though evidence-based healthcare decision making is a vital part of healthcare provision, sound decision-making frameworks can often be abandoned when internal decisions about staffing, discipline, scheduling, team dynamics, and more are made within an organization.
A history of poor decision-making within a workplace can be one of the biggest contributors to poor culture and burnout amongst nurses. Have you received reports or complaints from your nurses about dictatorial physicians or nurse managers? Have you witnessed inconsistent actions being applied without a clear policy or guideline to make sure your staff members aren’t unfairly treated? Making sure that your organization has strong evidence-based decision-making frameworks in place when it comes to internal operations and staffing protocol can be an effective deterrent to nurse strife, frustration, and burnout.
Advocate for Fair Compensation for Your Nurses
Maintaining compensation structures in a way that satisfies everyone is one of the toughest elements of professional management and policy. However, being fairly compensated is one of the best deterrents to turnover caused by becoming dissatisfied and burnt out on the job. If your role allows you to have any influence over compensation packages and handling, it is important to recognize that making sure your employees are being fairly compensated has a huge effect on turnover rates.
For a variety of reasons, and often because many nurses are unionized, you may not have much say over compensation figures for your nursing staff. However, you can still play a proactive role in helping your nurses navigate their compensation structures.
The simplest way to have a positive influence on your nurses in this area is simply to listen to them and their feelings about their compensation. Even if you don’t have the power to change their pay, you have an ear to listen. Sometimes a sympathetic ear is the only thing someone needs to help improve their perception of the situation and diffuse some of their frustration.
Recognize That Different Approaches May Be Required for Different Nurses
Too often, HR professionals mistakenly assume that they should take a one-size-fits-all approach to working with employees in their organizations. This might cause them to respond the same way to similar circumstances or needs experienced by different individuals on their staff. However, this is an inferior approach for a few reasons. One of the most important of these reasons is this: People develop in different ways and at different rates.
There are a number of psychological and social models available to professionals today that help define this reality and characterize the various stages of human development. Various factors that exist both inside and outside of an individual’s control dictates how he or she progresses through these stages. Trauma can inhibit individuals from advancing into higher levels of development. A lack of role models or growth opportunities can also slow an individual’s journey through these stages.
In order to help interact with each of your nurses in ways appropriate for their personal development stage, it’s important to understand how development stages work and how to identify signs that indicate where an individual nurse might be on that scale. Developmental frameworks can offer important insights about how to cater your approaches, your language, and your interactions to best match what each nurse on your staff needs.
As you support and manage your nursing staff, remember that they are under immense and often prolonged pressure. They withstand difficult working conditions and perform important, demanding work. As you create more sustainable working conditions for your nurses, you and your organization will benefit from reduced turnover and stronger nurse retention.