Article - HR

Stop the Bleeding:
How Do We Keep Nurses?

By Kelley Iuele|4th November 2022

Healthcare organizations today are faced with mounting challenges as far too many caregivers are leaving– or considering leaving– their jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we’ll likely see a shortage of more than one million registered nurses by the end of the year.  

So, what is it that’s driving nurses to exit the field? And what opportunities do healthcare leaders have to overcome the challenges, and stop the bleeding? 

These are the questions plaguing senior nursing leaders, and it’s exactly what was discussed on a pair of recent Meet the Boss roundtable sessions sponsored by the information and analytics leaders at Elsevier. 

Alarming Numbers

Right now, the United States is facing an alarming shortage of qualified talent in healthcare. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses recently surveyed more than 6,000 nurses, and 92% of them reported the pandemic had “depleted nurses at their hospitals,” which has them planning on cutting their careers “shorter than they intended.” 

Indeed, according to another analysis, this one published in Health Affairs, from 2020 to 2021, the total supply of registered nurses dipped by more than 100,000. That’s the most drastic decrease we’ve seen in over four decades. 

And every nursing leader on our roundtable panels has been feeling it.  

The Challenges

We heard from nursing executives from hospitals across the country, including, just to name a handful, Kaiser Permanente, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Northwell Health, and Texas Health Plano, and a few common challenges emerged. 

  • Burnout. So many physical and emotional factors related to the pandemic combined to create what the leaders on these panels called “unsustainable” cycles. Droves of healthcare workers were pushed to the brink, opting to retire early or shift roles. Remaining nurses now bear a heavy burden. As one executive shared, this creates far too much clinical pressure for new nurses. “Experienced nurses are retiring early, so we’re putting novices in areas that we would normally not.”
  • Skills gap. Nursing leaders, and new nurses themselves, report that novices do not feel “ready” to practice. As a nursing executive on the panel described, “nurses that are graduating and coming out over the past two years have not had the level of clinical preparation that most nurses would get—if any at all.”
  • Travel role complications. Nearly every executive involved in the roundtable sessions talked about losing talent to travel assignments. Most hospitals just can’t compete when, in some cases, traveling nurses could earn 3-4x their normal rates of pay by moving to certain locations. This sets up complicated salary expectations and inflated precedents.  

Could the Solution Lie in Job Satisfaction?

A crucial space for healthcare leaders to be focused on, according to the thought leaders at Elsevier, is the job satisfaction levels of their nurses. By providing nurses with the right support, by strengthening their competence and confidence, leaders can raise overall job satisfaction, lower attrition, while enhancing the quality of patient care.  

  • Differentiate as a place of learning and development. As the experts at Elsevier recommend, become the best place for a nurse to start by making learning and development part of the overall benefits package. Support nurses as they continue to develop and advance their nursing careers.
  • Not one-size-fits-all. Development must be personalized. Elsevier executives shared how pre-assessment tests can be used before a training even begins, so each nurse’s learning can be customized based on actual knowledge gaps.
  • Simulation. Realistic interactions with virtual patients will build the knowledge and confidence of novices, especially if pandemic restrictions limited their clinical care experience. As the executives on our panel sessions all noted, new nurses are looking to their leaders to make them feel comfortable. 

Support Growth to Stop the Bleeding

It’s not a simple problem and there are no simple solutions, but if nursing leaders can make each caregiver feel safe, feel individually supported, and feel empowered to grow and develop, it will no doubt have a real impact on attracting and retaining nursing talent. 

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