Guide to Improving Staff Retention in Healthcare

December 7, 2022 Kimberly Anderson-Mutch

Many industries today are aiming to improve their staff retention rates. Since the pandemic, healthcare organizations have been particularly struggling to keep a strong nurse-to-patient ratio and reduce burnout and emotional stress in their staff. Without the right tools and resources, your management team may experience a similar situation. It can be difficult to try to improve turnover rates and patient care quality if you are using the same outdated processes and strategies. 

With certain solutions, your healthcare facility can make it easier for nurses to do their jobs, have more control over their schedules, and feel more supported and valued in their work. In this guide, we'll show you how to increase overall productivity and efficiency in your organization with some retention ideas for healthcare employees.

Table of contents:

  • Plan proactively
  • Enhance recruiting and onboarding
  • Improve scheduling 
  • Prevent employee burnout
  • Increase employee engagement 
  • Recognize and Celebrate Staff
  • Provide Thoughtful Benefits and Perks 

Current Healthcare Employee Retention Challenges

From staffing shortages to heavy workloads to emotional tolls, many nurses have left or plan to leave the field for one reason or another. This has caused many facilities to struggle to maintain good ratings and provide effective patient care. Let's look at some of the major issues causing low employee retention in healthcare.

High Rates of Burnout and Job Stress 

Burnout refers to high levels of physical, mental, and emotional stress. This issue is heavily prevalent in healthcare, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This type of job stress has created a healthcare worker crisis and caused many nurses and other staff to leave their jobs. This leads to a lower healthcare staff retention rate and can make it more difficult for organizations to provide patients with care, resulting in higher health costs and worse patient outcomes. 

Nurses and other healthcare employees may feel higher rates of burnout when other challenges are also present in the facility, such as staffing shortages, low pay, lack of benefits, and general dissatisfaction with management. One survey found that 44% of respondents cited burnout and a high-stress environment as their primary reasons for leaving the field. 

Employee Turnover

The employee turnover rate in healthcare can lead to many other struggles, but it's enough of a problem on its own. As more nurses and hospital staff leave their jobs for better pay or simply due to overwhelming stress, this leaves a heavier burden on the remaining staff. 

If this turnover is not stabilized, it can become a much bigger issue and lead to a reduced quality of care and unhappy nurses over time. Staff turnover may be one of the biggest threats to operational success in healthcare facilities. Many organizations get stuck with high turnover costs and lose revenue as a result of this challenge. 

Understaffed Facilities

High turnover and burnout can also be a result—or cause—of staffing shortages. If your healthcare organization is understaffed or has been for some time, it can be an uphill battle to hire enough nurses to care for your residents and patients.

The more unhappy your staff is with their occupation, the more likely they will seek another position. This will leave gaps in schedules and makes it more difficult to cover shifts. In turn, this can cause your remaining nurses to increase their workload while your management team hires and onboards new staff. Ultimately, staffing shortages are a vicious cycle that leaves your facility in need of more effective solutions. 

Lack of Adequate Pay and Benefits 

Even before the pandemic, millions of healthcare workers not only reported that they feel undervalued but also felt extremely underpaid. This is particularly true among women nurses, who earn an average of 24% less than their male coworkers

Many nurses may feel their management does not give them a fair wage and decide to leave. In addition to many hospitals and healthcare facilities cutting raises, many have also reduced benefits as a way to battle rising costs. Some organizations have even had nurses work more shifts with longer hours while denying their paid time off. 

Management Issues

There is overwhelming evidence that indicates management plays a critical role in employee engagement and, therefore, staff retention in healthcare. Healthcare leaders at the HIMSS 2022 Global Healthcare Conference and Exhibition stated management must show they value their staff, or they can expect the working shortage to get worse. The panelists also agreed that many managers exhibit a lack of empathy and do not thank their workers enough. 

This backs up another claim made during this convention that many nurses feel they will appear non-resilient if they voice their concerns. Finally, they discussed a survey that suggests compensation was not enough for healthcare workers to stay in their jobs. This survey also cited that managers were the number one stressor for many nurses.

Another study found healthcare workers are the most likely group to leave their jobs because of bad management, with 88% of respondents agreeing with the statement. A separate survey cited that, of all healthcare workers leaving their profession, 51% of nurses state it's because they don’t feel supported by their managers.

How to Increase Employee Retention in Healthcare 

How to Increase Employee Retention in Healthcare

The statistics above clearly show that the healthcare industry must reevaluate how it can combat these rising issues and support nursing staff. Whether you work in a nursing facility or hospital, it's worth looking into how to lighten the workload on your nurses to reduce turnover. Here are seven ways to improve nursing staff retention in your healthcare facility:

1. Plan Proactively 

The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that many healthcare organizations were poorly prepared to experience high volumes of patients and residents while understaffed. The better prepared you are for similar potential situations, the better you can handle them.

Being prepared provides your organization with more agility when you're understaffed to quickly and more effectively recover. Additionally, having a plan for an inadequate amount of nursing staff can help you proactively anticipate healthcare fluctuations and establish more efficient healthcare retention strategies and plans. 

Being more proactive in your nursing facility is also a critical component of workforce management. With proper planning, you can predict when your hospital or facility may receive more residents or higher cases of illness and adjust accordingly. Likewise, your nursing staff will appreciate that you have a plan in place to prevent them from being overworked, getting denied their time off, feeling burnt out due to losing staff, or not having enough resources. 

Ultimately, you can avoid last-minute staffing issues with an effective management system that can help you recognize patterns early on and quickly respond to these problems to prevent nurses from leaving. 

2. Enhance Recruiting and Onboarding

A pain point for many healthcare HR managers and administrators is the hiring and training process. Nursing staff turnover can create high costs as facilities attempt to hire and train more staff members. If these new employees leave their position within a short amount of time, organizations lose even more money. Not to mention, improving recruiting and onboarding processes in the first place can set up healthcare employees for success early on and prepare them for fluctuations in their jobs. 

With turnover so high in the healthcare industry, it's important for your facility to look beyond simply filling positions. Your nursing staff needs reasons to stay. By recruiting with job satisfaction in mind, you may be able to keep higher caregiver and hospital staff retention rates. Aside from pay and benefits, healthcare workers also look for professional development and managers who will support them during unprecedented times. 

All of these factors will influence their decision to stay. You and your management team can also expand training services by providing continuous educational resources so they can stay up-to-date in their certifications and licenses. At the end of the day, it's important to give your nursing staff confidence to step into their new role feeling prepared and welcome in your facility.

3. Improve Scheduling

 Improve Scheduling

If you're aiming for better retention strategies in healthcare, one of the most effective ways to reduce nurse burnout and give your staff more control over their schedules is to implement self-schedule software. These solutions, like Smartlinx Go, offer more flexibility and mobility for nurses by giving them access to their schedules in a mobile app. This way, they will be more involved and engaged with their work and feel more committed to your organization. 

Smartlinx Go also offers real-time activities, such as:

  • Scheduling changes/requests 
  • Pay 
  • Personal data 
  • Notifications of open shifts 
  • Request approvals 
  • Messages delivered via preferred communication method 

With this solution, you can give nurses autonomy in scheduling to submit time-off requests and ensure proper staffing at all times. This will lead to greater job satisfaction and let your healthcare workers communicate more effectively about their availability. 

4. Prevent Employee Burnout 

Employee burnout is one of the biggest issues in the industry today and overwhelms the majority of our healthcare workers. Assisted and long-term care facility workers may be particularly exposed to this type of job stress, which can lead to nurses feeling distracted and being less thorough while dealing with patients

Eventually, this can affect patient safety. If your organization wants to improve staff retention, you must strategize to reduce the emotional, physical, and mental toll on your nurses from chronic workplace stress. Your administrative team can accomplish this goal by: 

With the Smartlinx healthcare workforce platform, you can streamline your operations and make many daily tasks easier for both management and your workers. In addition, you can improve employee communication and reduce inefficiencies so you can focus on more high-priority tasks, such as alleviating nurse burnout

5. Increase Employee Engagement 

Whether you're in a hospital or long-term nursing facility, your nursing staff has busy schedules. If you also happen to be understaffed and give your team long hours, it can be difficult for them to feel invested in their work. Eventually, this can cause them to leave their position and create high expenses for you to replace them. 

High turnover rates can significantly affect your bottom line. It's important to keep in touch with your staff and find ways to improve engagement so you can retain your most valuable workers. Here are some nurse retention strategies for engagement:

  • Provide monthly free lunches
  • Organize volunteer and charity opportunities 
  • Plan social outings for team building
  • Conduct regular satisfaction surveys 
  • Plan fun activities, such as dressing up and decorating on holidays 
  • Implement a software solution that eliminates common pain points for nurses

You can help increase engagement through a workforce management platform that eliminates outdated, slow processes and makes it easier for staff to manage their schedules and communicate with you. With the right employee engagement tools, you can efficiently manage your workforce and keep everyone connected to their jobs from the first day of onboarding. 

With Smartlinx, you can even stay in touch with your staff and make them feel valued by sending messages through the mobile app or the time clock. This is where you can connect about feedback opportunities, wish them a happy birthday, or remind them of a special treat in the break room. These simple gestures will make them feel they are important to your operation. 

6. Recognize and Celebrate Staff

Simply put, there is no better way to retain your staff than to make them feel appreciated, valued, and celebrated for the work they do. Being a caregiver is not an easy profession, and your nursing staff deserves to be recognized. There are many ways you can shout out your staff and make them feel more committed to your healthcare facility, including:

  • Providing personal positive feedback regularly 
  • Celebrating long-term staff members with longevity bonuses
  • Hosting employee of the month events with prizes and recognition 
  • Shouting out staff members for personal and professional milestones 

Remember, people who work in healthcare often choose their jobs because they want to actively make a difference in the world and care for others. Recognizing and celebrating their contributions to your facility and to the patient experience can help lift them up and keep them motivated and engaged. 

7. Provide Thoughtful Benefits and Perks 

In addition to better compensation, it's also essential for healthcare organizations to provide adequate benefits for employees. For instance, if you provide your nursing staff with decent pay but struggle to give them paid time off or quality health insurance, they'll likely look for another position that offers better benefits. 

Some nurses may even value benefits over higher compensation, especially if they have families and dependents. Aside from the typical job benefits, you can also secure hospital employee retention and commitment to your organization with perks like:

  • Stipends
  • Relocation assistance
  • Tuition assistance and reimbursement
  • Referral bonuses
  • Sign-on bonuses 
  • Autonomy for choosing shifts 

Learn How to Retain Healthcare Employees With Smartlinx

Learn How to Retain Healthcare Employees With Smartlinx

Current staff retention challenges continue to make it difficult for healthcare organizations to maintain a high quality of care and value the well-being of nurses. The higher the turnover rate, the more stress you put on your remaining staff. We created Smartlinx to overcome these issues. Our innovative solution empowers healthcare facilities to:

Whether you manage a hospital, long-term care facility, or assisted living facility, Smartlinx is a unified, comprehensive solution that addresses your unique needs and helps you meet your operational goals. To learn more about our products and features, request a demo today and see what Smartlinx has to offer. 

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