How to Lower Nursing Turnover and Retain Top Talent

May 8, 2017

How to Lower Nursing Turnover and Retain Top Talent

How to Lower Nursing Turnover and Retain Top Talent

Turnover in nursing, even in healthy doses, is an unwelcome part of running any unit, private practice, or hospital. Certain RN positions (especially in emergency, telemetry, and surgical roles) are hurt more by vacancies, impacting departmental performance. Though remaining staff members will pick up shifts until replacements are hired, nurse fatigue worsens in the meantime. Sleep deprivation leads to higher on-the-job risks, as a loss of 1.5 hours of sleep decreases alertness, thinking, and information processing by 32%.  Healthcare facilities that make conscious efforts to lower nursing turnover avert needless risks to patient well-being.

Manage Overtime Effectively

When overtime is mandatory in any job, it leads to high burnout rates. The very nature of the nursing profession takes a higher emotional toll when mandatory overtime sucks them in. For that reason, some states have enacted legislation to prevent mandatory overtime for healthcare workers in all but extreme situations. Though it may be tempting in moments of scheduling desperation, mandatory overtime is best left in the past.

When overtime is a voluntary choice, almost all nurses will take the extra shifts for extra pay to handle unexpected peaks and talent shortages. The key factor is to find an overtime scheduling sweet spot where nurses don’t overexert themselves but still don’t need to supplement their income with outside work. That requires some calculation. Hourly rates plus projected overtime need to be factored together to determine if the expanded compensation aligns with what’s competitive.

How do you determine if compensation is enough? Our 2017 Detroit Salary Guide includes competitive wages for various healthcare positions and helps nurse managers improve compensation to defend against competitors recruiting their staff.

Offer Flexible Shifts

Another way to lower nursing turnover is to give registered nurses more influence in schedule making. Whether working 12 hour shifts or just outside their ideal hours, nurses face difficulty juggling their personal and professional lives. Any assistance nurse managers or scheduling managers provide goes a long way to boost morale and lower RN turnover.

In fact, studies of self-scheduling programs show that nurses feel they have more time to spend with their families and more energy to provide greater quality patient care. Nurses who feel their personal lives and responsibilities are respected are often less inclined to leave when approached with a competitor’s offer.

The key is to manage expectations during the launch of self-scheduling programs. Nurse managers who make the effort to communicate that the program does not guarantee every schedule request, but does significantly increase their access to desirable shifts, encounter fewer obstacles. The variety of scheduling preferences among nurses usually enables much higher rates of scheduling satisfaction. Holidays will still cause scheduling conflict and sick calls tend to remain steady, but job satisfaction will increase on the whole.

Make Floating Easier

Nurses tend to be driven people and most are always looking for new ways to expand their skills and knowledge. Though there may not be an immediate opportunity for them to advance, nurses provided with professional development are more satisfied in their careers. Float pools offer one avenue for development. They not only encourage cross-training and alleviate shift shortages temporarily, but offset nursing turnover in the long run.

The advantages of an active float pool are numerous. When units experience census shortages, nurses are able to float in other departments rather than lose shifts. Nurses looking to cross-train are able to expand their skills without leaving for other healthcare facilities. Nurses who want more part time opportunities are able to control their schedule and still maintain variety. Even the nurses in units that are accepting floaters benefit as their own desired schedules become easier to achieve. It’s win-win.

Successful float pools depend upon clear orientation. Each unit operates under different policies and guidelines. Asking nurses to float between departments without providing them the guidance to adapt quickly leads to problems on the best of days. Some healthcare providers implement processes where the unit’s shift leader checks in with floaters whenever possible and provides professional advice. That way, patient care remains consistent and nurse morale is maintained as floating nurses expand their knowledge and expertise.

Provide Structured Mentorship

Beyond cross-training, nurses remain with healthcare providers that vertically build their existing knowledge and responsibilities. Some want in-depth training from senior RNs and others want their own opportunities to prove themselves in leadership roles. In both instances, structured mentorship broadens professional development options and limits the departure of top nursing talent.

When it comes to training, involvement of senior nursing staff provides a social safety net. One barrier that healthcare organizations work to overcome is buy-in from senior staff. At times, there can be resistance from experienced nurses who feel they are now responsible for the education and performance of others. However, through clear communication about the importance of knowledge transfer, they can be sold on the idea of mentoring newer nurses around best practices.

Leadership opportunities are subject to the availability of such roles and the aptitude of each interested nurse. Not every great nurse is going to make a great leader, so close oversight is needed to separate promising leaders from the rest. Healthcare providers that offer more transitional leadership roles, where they work alongside existing shift leaders and nurse managers to solve scheduling issues, develop education programs, and manage departmental budgets, thrive in the long-run.

Finding the Right Talent Helps Lower Nursing Turnover Rates

Retention rates are always going to be a challenge in industries with high demand talent. Healthcare providers that proactively offer more flexible schedule options, floating opportunities, and structured mentorship foster an environment where nurses want to stay.

More than creating an ideal working environment, nurse managers who lower nursing turnover rates acquire the right RNs in the first place. Contact us today to find exceptional nurses to improve patient care and the KPIs that matter to you.


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