In a survey of 800 American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) members, it was recently revealed that more than half of hospital chief nursing officers are seeing an increase in retirements, sick leave, and early exits from acute care nurses. These concerning statistics presented at the AONL virtual conference in July by Peter Buerhaus, PhD, indicate something even worse: better management could have prevented many of the recent exits.
AONL members are not alone in their reported concerns. An American Nurses Foundation survey conducted in early 2021 showed that 38% felt undervalued and more than half (52%) said work negatively impacted their health and well-being.
These are only two of the many studies that show how serious the acute care nursing exodus has become and the reasons why nurses are leaving full-time employment.
Improve retention by creating a healthy culture
It's clear that nurses are experiencing mental and physical exhaustion. Beth Wathen, president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), shared in a recent conversation with the American Journal of Nursing that hospitals "must make staff well-being a priority." There is an urgent need to create a healthy work environment for nurses, as it goes hand-in-hand with a happy and productive workforce.
Studies show developing and nurturing a positive culture is associated with improved employee engagement and retention.
How can your facility create a healthier work culture? Here are a few suggestions from Wathen as well as a few from Team CareRev:
Equip managers with tools
Managers at your facility must have training and tools to understand their acute care nursing team’s workloads. It’s also vital for them to recognize different learning and work styles and to know how to properly assess their team - and themselves - for signs of burnout.
Encouraging professionals who are on the verge of exhaustion to take time out to recover is crucial to protecting their mental well-being as well as patient outcomes.
Lead by example
This one’s for you, members of management and leadership. Take lunch breaks and leave work at a reasonable hour whenever possible. Prioritize vacations, your loved ones, your hobbies, and your rest.
When you do, you encourage your team to do the same.
Use proactive policies
Encourage staff to take PTO. Make it a point to ask your acute care nursing team members to avoid checking email or checking in when they’re off work.
Instead, encourage them to disconnect and to actively focus on their lives outside of work.
Provide peer to peer support
Carefully cultivate a spirit of “we’re in this together” within your team. It’s that spirit that kept many nurses and other clinicians going during the worst of the pandemic.
Keep that spirit going by establishing an online peer support group or similar initiative. Actively participate in supporting your peers as well.
Make sure voices are heard
Create a seat at policy tables for acute care nurses. Welcome and mentor them as they carve out that space and share their feedback in staffing decisions, including how to enhance diversity in nursing.
If your team is stretched to the limit, your nurse advocates will let you know.
Call in for backup
Give your nurses the support they need to thrive. When you’re understaffed, a technology platform like CareRev gives you direct access to local, fully vetted healthcare professionals. Post open shifts on demand in minutes to find relief asap.
Moving forward with retention
Improving retention of your acute care nurses means sparking a sense of urgency. To see change, your facility should get ready to swiftly and thoroughly re-evaluate and improve where needed.
That means not only culture but also professional development opportunities, salaries, sign-on bonuses, employee recognition programs, and flexible work options.
By focusing on and fostering a culture of wellness, you’ll create a balanced environment where health and well-being is the number one priority for both your patients and for the people who care for them. And that’s a perk worth sticking around for.