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Why Nursing Retention Is So Complex – 3 Reasons

Why is it so difficult to keep nurses on staff, when they trained so diligently. Shouldn’t they just want to keep their jobs?

What if there was a magic wand that nursing executives could wave and you would suddenly have the top trained nurses working for you, while also motivating them to stay happy and healthy?

Or…Do you actually think that by paying nurses more money, it’ll just fix the entire problem and those new hires will stick with you because “Money Talks, Baby!”?

Well, if you’re pondering any of these questions, and wondering why nursing retention is so darn complex, these 3 reasons might inspire you – and your teams – to make some permanent and worth-while changes in your nursing retention formula. The fact is, turnover impacts healthcare in so many ways, and the public suffers as a result. As much as policy-makers and advocates are working tirelessly to rectify this situation (more like crisis!), and change the direction of nursing wellbeing and retention, future generations to come are demanding a fresh perspective!

3 Reasons Nursing Retention Is So Complex

1. Inconsistent Scheduling Practices

The truth is, scheduling is not only a complex issue in nursing retention, but it’s a standalone issue across all workspaces. People want more balance in their lives. The topic of self-scheduling in nursing isn’t new and definitely adds to the complexity of nursing retention. In fact, Miller, ML published an article Implementing Self-Scheduling back in 1984, suggesting nurse administrators could use this alternative method to increase their staff nurses,  as well as enhance feelings of autonomy and job satisfaction. What happened?

Besides the stand-alone complexities of job satisfaction, current trends in scheduling practices have forced nurses to continue to work challenging shifts back-to-back, leaving them minimal recovery time in between. With additional shortages, the nurses lose their flexibility and autonomy even further – which poses strain on their physical health. This erodes the employee’s level of patience, and feelings of respect. In all, poor scheduling practices diminish work-life balance which stands as a key reason that retention is so complex. All of this can be rectified with implementing better self-scheduling practices.

2. Divided Community Ties

The recent pandemic has created massive disruption in community cohesion, in addition to higher rates of post-traumatic disorder amongst clinicians. While community is a powerful motivator to improved well-being, there can be a divide between disciplines such as the frontline, management and C-suite. Each of these levels of leadership have different needs that impact the ways in which we feel happy at work. Yes, you can find happiness at work! In my post, The New Heart of Healthcare Leadership, I reveal that employee engagement, mental health, along with personal development and wellbeing will be the new heart of healthcare leadership.

But…is the culture of the organization supportive to the entire healthcare staff in a whole-person centred way? It might be time to analyze whether employees perceive to have the responsibility for their health – mainly themselves – or whether they see their employers as sharing some responsibility. To date, this aspect is absent from research to the largest part.

Without a compatible caring and whole-person culture, and community, you risk losing your staff to more supportive organizations. This is why we’ve added the Mindful Clinician Community to our personal development program, The ProMind Experience. Community supports everyone on the path to leading a more mindful and well-intentioned life. Without it, your nursing retention strategies can fail. If you’re in this tough spot, reach out to us about The ProMind Experience and let us guide your teams of health practitioners to building healthy and balanced lives.

3. Low Motivation

Taking time to understand what motivates your staff to be at their best isn’t typically a component in nursing retention. Of course health practitioners would be motivated by competitive financial benefits and better pay, but it’s not the sole reason for taking a job as a nurse. Did you know that 80% of employees who work at companies with robust health and wellness programs feel engaged and cared for by their employers? How do you define “robust”? From what we’ve seen, it doesn’t include personal development training,

Yes, health benefits might be equally important and provide them additional incentive, but that alone doesn’t mean they’ll be motivated to use those benefits. Nor will those additional incentives motivate them to stick with you, if other components are missing. The benefits will do one sure thing: get them in the door to sign a contract to work with you. It gives them a sense that they’re “cared for”. That’s it!   They won’t necessarily be happy at work and may just move-on to the next best thing. See my article on Building The Best Hospitals To Work For.

The truth is, humans are complex and are typically motivated by many needs; a robust wellness program is only one of them. By expressing a little bit of empathy,  you might discover what your staff needs to be happy at work, and what is leading them to feeling unmotivated. This could be the single best move you make to motivating a nurse to stick wth you.

The Next-Generation Wellness Program: The ProMind Experience

“I believe that job satisfaction and being a nurse will one day become the new heart of healthcare retention.”

Programs like The ProMind Experience is one such solution to supporting many of these missing links.   The thing about employee retention, there isn’t one specific thing that will make your staff stick with you.  At this time in history, Health Human Resources departments large and small face mounting challenges. In order to respond to the nursing shortage swiftly, the entire healthcare system needs to change.

Not only that, but leaders’ mindset to wellness and well-being needs to step outside of the mental health/crisis intervention arena and step into mindfulness and personal development. Personal development IS professional development!  Emotional well-being is not just the absence of depression and anxiety, but also the ability to control our thoughts, emotions and behaviours in order to cope with life’s challenges. With a multi-pronged coaching approach, staff can better handle stress, build strong relationships, and bounce back from the regular, day-to-day, disappointments and setbacks.

Prior leadership styles need to take a turn for the better, and lend a hand to the new leaders coming through. We all need to come together at the table to be creative and think outside the box – and ultimately do everything opposite from what they’ve been doing for the last half-century. That’s not an easy feat!

Bonus Tip

When all else fails, practice gratitude for the amazing nurses and clinicians we do have. Gratitude is proven to help us feel positive emotions, and shift our energy. See podcast episode on How To Give & Receive Joy Each Day Through Gratitude here. Gratitude can improve our health, help us deal with adversity, and ground us when times are tough. It can also help us build healthy relationships with the ones we care for the most.

Here is a gratitude meditation that you can listen to, if you want to try this guided practice for yourself. I’ve also linked up to an article on the improvement of heart health through gratitude, from Berkley.

Relevant Posts:

Strengthening Your Pipeline Through Personal Development

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