Medical Staffing Solutions: How to Find and Keep Nurses

Anna Aguilar
February 25, 2022

Our most essential care giving institutions are under siege amidst a nursing staffing shortage that has now taken center stage. The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered a long known issue amongst medical professionals and amplified it into the public sphere. Nearly two years of caring for critically sick patients who can’t have family or other loved ones by their side and are repeatedly facing death has made an already difficult job even more difficult. This has caused burnout to skyrocket, forcing many nurses and other health-care workers to quit. This has added to the stress of those who remain, because they are frequently forced to work longer hours under more difficult conditions while caring for even more patients. This unfortunate cocktail of less nurses for a greater number of sick people has resulted in worse outcomes for patients. It is crucial for medical institutions to solve these nursing staffing issues to lower mortality rates, shorten patient stays, and improve overall care.

Some statistics from Nursing Solutions Inc.(NSI) :

  • Hospitals are experiencing a higher registered nurse (RN) vacancy rate. Currently, this stands at 9.9%, up another point from last year. Less than a quarter (23.9%) of hospitals reported a RN vacancy rate of “less than 5%”. 
  • An overwhelming majority (94.8%) of hospitals view retention as a “key strategic imperative” and to a lesser degree, is evident in operational practice/planning. Almost all hospitals have retention initiatives (80.7%) however, only half (51.4%) have tied these to a measurable goal.
  • In 2019, less than a quarter (23.7%) of hospitals reported a vacancy rate greater than 10%. Today, over a third (35.8%) are in this group. 

So how does the medical establishment solve the problem of finding and keeping nurses? 

Medical Staffing Solutions

Strategic Engagement in the Hiring Process

In a competitive nurse staffing market, it’s more important than ever for hospitals and clinics to be both more strategic and engaged during the hiring process. As with any sector, the first impression of an organization is usually formed during the hiring process;It’s critical to create a hiring plan that is helpful, thorough, and transparent. You could accomplish this by taking the following steps:

  • Write a complete and accurate job description that reflects your organization’s mission and the role to be filled
  • Communicate frequently and keep candidates updated on the status of their application and establish clear timelines 
  • Perform a comprehensive review of each candidate’s application.
  • Read reviews from employees and candidates to gather feedback about your hiring process
  • Allow for peer interviews by other nurses – this creates cultural buy-in from existing current employees as they are a great barometer of how someone will fit into the existing team
  • Utilize staffing technology platforms that can automate some of the more menial tasks in the hiring process to allow for medical HR staff to both key in on all the appropriate candidates and more easily manage the hiring pipeline

Reward Hard Work and Performance

It doesn’t matter the job or industry, people appreciate being recognized for a job well done. Properly recognizing employees for good work can help them feel like they are a valuable part of the organization, boost their confidence, and motivate them to stay loyal to the company. Create unique ways beyond verbal praise to demonstrate to the nursing staff that their work is valued and appreciated on a regular basis. 

  • Establish a rewards program could include the ability for coworkers to nominate one another
  • A mention in the company newsletter
  • Gift cards
  • Paid for group outings
  • Paid staff lunches 

Collect and Deploy Feedback

Many times medical organizations suffer from a management structure that only allows for communication to go in one direction –top-down. Unfortunately, this results in nurses not feeling heard in regards to the challenges they face in their jobs. 

Not only does not having a voice in the workplace lead to lowered morale among staff, but it robs the hospital or clinic of crucial intel from their most essential front line care workers. In this way, the harm of not accepting and deploying feedback is two fold. It creates resentment amongst nursing staff, and robs the institution from learning crucial information and optimizing processes that could cut costs, improve productivity, and enhance care.

Promote Professional Development

Everyone within an organization likes to feel like they can improve their skills and their standing within their chosen job. The nursing profession is no different in this regard. The first part of professional development is being transparent about a career track whereby nurses can increase their pay, position, and improve their skills. These types of professional development programs can boost nurses’ confidence and create loyalty to their current organization. This means creating training programs in the form of webinars or workshops to support nurses’ desire to advance and gain skills that will help them provide exceptional patient care. Also, sending your nursing staff to conferences where they can network with other professionals and learn about new nursing topics and trends. When nurses feel like their workplace invests in their development, they are far more likely to stick around. In a modeling study, conducted with several colleagues at the University of Virginia, it was determined that hospitals that invest in burnout reduction programs — everything from safe staffing to well-being initiatives to meaningful raises and bonuses and clear lines for professional mobility — spend about 30% less on burnout-related costs. And new nurses who work at such burnout-savvy hospitals tend to stay at their jobs about 20% longer.

Provide Competitive Compensation

This may be an obvious and straightforward point, but organizations need to pay on par or better than their competition to hire and retain nurses and stay adequately staffed. Currently, we find ourselves in a situation where nurses have more leverage than ever before in regards to their career. Quite frankly, supply is low and demand is high. This means employers need to provide a competitive salary, a sign-on bonus, and an enticing compensation package that may include extra paid time off, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits. Although your present employees may appreciate working at your location, it’s critical to pay annual salaries that are competitive with those offered by others in your industry. If salary is a major deciding factor for an employee, and they’re a nurse who contributes significantly to the organization, you might be able to keep them by providing them more lucrative compensation.

TAKE STEPS TO RELIEVE BURNOUT

In nursing, a paradigm change from crisis intervention to mental health promotion and prevention is critical. For years, healthcare executives failed to adequately address high rates of burnout (emotional weariness, depersonalization, job alienation, and a sense of ineffectiveness) and harmful lifestyle practices among their workforce. Instead, burnout was thought to be a personal rather than a systemic problem. Individual nurses were left to work things out on their own, which resulted in a crisis. This problem has been exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic and has led to lower moral and decreased retention rates amongst nursing staff. 

Here are some tips to help ease the mental fatigue of nursing staff:

  • Frequently check-in with nurses 
  • Provide nurses wellness programs 
  • Integrate more PTO into nurse schedules
  • Reduce administrative burden
  • Enable technology solutions the remove redundant or menial tasks

In Conclusion

The answers are clear – in order for hospitals and clinics to be better equipped to maintain appropriate nurse staffing levels, medical organizations need to enhance their hiring processes to be more engaged and transparent, provide greater feedback opportunities, incentivize a nurse’s professional development through learning opportunities and career development that allows them to grow and earn more.

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