Nursing Turnover: Increasing Nurse Retention Rates

January 17, 2023

When it comes to healthcare workforce management (mainly nurses), your best approach is to keep your existing nurses. As the healthcare industry continues to experience nurse shortage, satisfying and holding on to your current nurses is the best way for your practice to thrive. 

Yet studies from NSI Nursing solutions have shown that 21 percent of nurses want to leave patient care, with another 22 percent planning to retire soon. Also, about 10 percent want to leave the nursing profession altogether. Here are some other startling statistics from NSI solutions.

  • As of 2019, Nurses working in emergency services and behavioral health experienced the highest turnover rate. 
  • RNs in women's health, pediatrics, and burn care recorded the lowest turnover rate 
  • The hospital turnover rate was 15.9 percent. 

Insufficient staffing levels are a direct effect of the high nurse turnover rate. Having an inadequate number of nurses covering shifts leads to job dissatisfaction and burnout among nurses and an increased risk for medical errors. 

It is more difficult and costly to employ nurses in this industry, and many nurses are more likely to leave. Therefore,  implementing plans and strategies to increase nurse retention is needed more than ever. 

What is Nurse Retention? 

The term 'nurse retention' describes the ability of a healthcare facility to keep their existing experienced nurses on staff rather than losing them to competing facilities or early retirement. 

If your nurse retention rate is low, internal and external factors have created unfavorable conditions within your facility. These conditions cause nurses to leave your practice within a year or two of their employment. 

Unsatisfied patients due to an understaffed practice are a lousy business. A low nursing retention rate eventually leads to an understaffed practice. Understaffed practice, in turn, affects the overall consistency of patient care at hospitals.

Therefore, you need to guard against high nurse turnover constantly. 

Causes Of High Nurse Turnover

Studies show that 43 percent of new RNs will resign from their nursing roles within three years, and only about 18 percent leave within their first year. We need to investigate the underlying reasons that strengthen high nurse turnovers. 

A variety of factors contribute to the high nurse turnover rate. However, this problem occurs when nurses become dissatisfied with their job. Here are some contributing factors to nursing turnover; 

Long Hours 

Shift work is not easy; when nurses have to work multiple shifts without breaks, they feel overworked. Especially when they have to miss out on weekends and holidays, if this problem is ignored over a period, nurse burnout may set in; they become dissatisfied with their job and eventually leave. 

Unrealized Expectations 

Some nurses and healthcare administrators don't provide comprehensive orientations, so new employees know what to expect.

Therefore, new nurses come into the system with a false idea of what to expect. When their expectations are not met, they tend to opt-out. 

Toxic Workplace Culture

A toxic working environment is generally a red flag for many employees. But adding unhealthy behaviors to the existing stressful nature of nursing makes it impossible for new nurses to continue. From bullying to sexual harassment, none of this behavior creates a safe environment for work. 

Limited Opportunities For Growth 

Every new nurse aspires to one day gain leadership positions within the organization. For some, this means becoming a nurse leader, while others hope to scale up their education and move into specialties. No one wants to remain at the same level for too long. 

They might lose interest in working within your practice and seek jobs elsewhere when they feel limited or unable to move up the career ladder. 

Poor Communications 

When there is poor communication, it is impossible to resolve their concerns. When issues (as listed above) linger, nurses might begin to look for alternatives outside your organization. 

Also, nurses want to build meaningful relationships with their superiors and colleagues. This becomes impossible when there is poor communication in the workplace, leaving them feeling alone when they crave support. 

Why is Nurse Retention Important?

Nurse retention reduces the likelihood of staff shortages. Two factors that influence nurse shortage within a healthcare organization include; 

  • Retaining existing nurses (Nurse retentions) and reducing nurse turnover rate or,
  • Onboarding new nursing staff.

It is better to retain existing nursing staff because 

  • Onboarding new staff can be financially burdensome; NSI  studies have shown that each percent change in RN turnover will save the average healthcare additional $306,400 per year. It means that, on average, hospitals lose between 5 to 8 million dollars annually. 
  • A low nurse retention rate can compromise the continuity of patient care and lead to patient dissatisfaction. 

Nurse Retention Strategies

1. Ensure Adequate Nurse-to-Patient Staffing Ratio

Patients miss out on the quality care they deserve when your healthcare facility is short-staffed. Also, nurses tend to be overworked when there is an inadequate nurse-patient staffing ratio. Imagine a nurse carrying the workload meant for three nurses. 

To satisfy your nurses, ensure you do not overwork them by hiring needed nursing talent where required. 

2. Offer Competitive Compensation And Benefits

Generally, nurses prefer working in an organization that works for them. You can start by checking hospitals around you and accessing their compensation packages to ensure you are not falling short in the competition. 

It does not always have to be about salary or insurance package; you can be creative around this. You can do so if you want to reduce on-call time, give the nurses their birthday off each year as paid time off, or give them the freedom to attend courses and conferences.

3. Limit Overtime 

It isn't easy to do away with overtime, but you can limit/control overtime rates for each nurse with careful planning. Start by collecting the details on who works overtime and why. 

With this information, you can spread over time across nurses to prevent the same nurses from frequently doing overtime. 

4. Make Career Development and Advancement a Priority 

Nurses generally think they cannot move up the career ladder working in the same organization. 

Even if career advancement opportunities are available in your organization, you need to make sure they are aware of these possibilities. 

Encourage them to enroll in higher-level courses and programs. If possible, understand their individual goals and help them determine what steps they need to take to achieve their goals. 

5. Establish Lines Of Communication 

Nurses feel isolated and dissatisfied with the healthcare organization without open communication. 

Encourage your nurses to have conversations with their supervisors and administrators when they have any concerns they need to air. Especially when they feel burnt out or overworked.

High nurse turnover will continue affecting your healthcare facility's finances and operations without taking active steps. 

However, by following the above strategies, you can reduce nurse turnover rates and build a thriving healthcare organization. 

Final Thoughts

Hospitals can take a number of steps to increase nurse retention rates. These steps include offering competitive salaries and benefits, providing opportunities for professional development, and creating a supportive work environment. 

By taking these steps, hospitals can create a positive work culture that will encourage nurses to stay with the organization for the long haul.

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