How to Reduce Staff Turnover in Skilled Nursing Facilities

April 19, 2023 Kimberly Anderson-Mutch

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry has long faced challenges in attracting and retaining workers. Retaining skilled nurses, in particular, has become an ongoing problem for long-term care and senior living facilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 275,000 nurses will be needed to cover the demand caused by the pandemic. This gap has put additional stress on remaining nurses, causing stress and burnout rates to skyrocket. 

Before the pandemic, healthcare burnout had already reached crisis levels, and within the last two years, more than 50% of healthcare workers report suffering from burnout, anxiety, or depression. It's safe to assume that turnover will continue to rise if organizations are unable to prioritize nurse well-being, improve scheduling, and attract and retain skilled nurses. You might see these issues arising in your own nursing facility. Fortunately, we'll help you learn how to reduce nurse turnover and prevent it from happening in the future.

What Is Nurse Turnover?

What Is Nurse Turnover?

Turnover refers to the number of employees or staff members that leave a business over a period of time, which is generally one year. Nurse turnover includes staff members who both voluntarily and involuntarily leave the organization. To determine the turnover rate in your skilled nursing facility, you can measure the total number of employees who have left your organization within the last year or narrow it down to specific departments or roles if needed.

Whether you hired staff members recently or they have been a part of your organization for years, a high turnover rate is never a good sign for any healthcare facility. Generally, high nurse turnover reflects a lack of staff, inadequate pay and benefits, too much stress on the job, feeling under-appreciated, or other issues within the organization that causes many employees to leave within a calendar year.

 However, turnover can also result from factors that do not necessarily reflect an organization's standing, such as a desire to change professions or retire.

What Causes Nurse Turnover? 

There are countless reasons why nurses decide to leave an organization—or their profession entirely. Here are the most common issues that may lead to high nurse turnover at your facility. 

1. Nurses Feel Overworked and Dissatisfied 

One of the leading factors of nurse turnover is workplace stress. While many jobs come with emotional burdens, nurses are already full-time caregivers, which can take a toll on anyone. On top of that, with many jobs remaining unfilled, it's led to nurses having to work more hours. 

With a heavier workload, it's easy to see how the stress can build up and make nurses feel that management cannot meet their needs. Long hours with no days off can also lead to nurse burnout. When left untreated, burnout can result in serious mental health conditions and nurses wanting to quit their jobs.

In some facilities, nurses may even have to work mandatory overtime or back-to-back shifts, leaving little time for recovery and attending to personal needs outside of work.

2. Nurses Do Not Feel Appreciated or Valued

Nurses who are meaningfully recognized for their work feel more appreciated, respected, and valued. Providing a supportive workplace means that they're more likely to remain in their position longer. Facilities that fail to provide adequate recognition or rewards for nursing staff accomplishments may have higher turnover rates. 

When nurses feel acknowledged for the work they do, they may feel more motivated to keep reaching goals or strive for new positions. Something as simple as a nurse appreciation week or asking your nurses for feedback and implementing their ideas can go a long way in keeping them engaged. 

3. Few Healthcare Facilities Offer Opportunities for Growth

While some nurses may be content with their current role, many others may aspire to gain a leadership position, such as a nurse manager, lead nurse, or nurse practitioner. If your long-term care facility does not offer continued education or means for developing professional skills, it may make your staff feel that they will never be able to move up the ladder. 

As they see others in their desired roles, they may begin to seek positions elsewhere in hopes that a new organization will offer them training courses to help grow their potential and maximize their skills.  

4. Some Facilities Have Poor Management and Communication    

Many nursing facilities have hectic day-to-day schedules. From caring for residents to managing schedules to onboarding new staff, it can be difficult to ensure you're facilitating effective communication among your team members. 

However, poor communication makes nurses feel that management does not take their needs and concerns seriously, and they may struggle to form meaningful connections with your management team and other healthcare professionals. One survey found that nearly 34% of nurses cited a lack of good management or leadership as their reason for leaving their position, and the reason that nearly 40% of nurses considered leaving.

5. Nurses Desire a Work-Life Balance and Consistent Schedule  

While some nurses may certainly enjoy the flexibility of picking up extra shifts or changing up their work week, many staff members prefer a consistent, set schedule. Knowing what to expect in their professional life makes it easier for your nurses to balance their personal lives, such as scheduling childcare, going on vacation, or taking a mental health day to do something for themselves. With the right solution, you can fill all shifts while offering some flexibility, like requesting open shifts. 

Some solutions, like the Smartlinx Go App, enables your entire workforce to view and manage their schedule right from their mobile device. This means your nursing staff can request time off, view their schedule, or send a message to you about an upcoming shift to streamline communication and avoid understaffing. Nurses can also view their pay, and personal data and request approvals right from their phones.

Nursing Turnover Rates in the Healthcare Industry 

A 2022 nurse turnover report stated that the turnover rates rose from approximately 3% to 12% within the last two years. This report also showed that 60% of healthcare facilities cited a nurse vacancy rate of at least 15%. 

However, nursing turnover exceeded the hospital average, increasing by over 8%. Another report found that in the last five years, the average healthcare organization has turned over more than 100% of its workforce. This means that within five years, every single staff member within a hospital or facility came and left. 

When it comes to financial savings, the report indicated that the average hospital loses anywhere from $5 to $9 million dollars annually due to nurse turnover, but lowering their turnover rate by just one percentage point can save them upwards of $300,000. While your long-term care or senior living facility may or may not be as large as a hospital, these numbers accurately reflect the state of the healthcare industry as organizations struggle with the cost of nurse turnover.

What Is Nurse Retention?  

While reducing turnover is its own challenge, your facility should also focus on building up retention. Nurse retention refers to your healthcare facility's ability to keep nurses on your staff. Having a high retention rate shows potential residents and nurses that you maintain a successful, positive work environment. 

There are many factors that can contribute to high nurse retention, such as competitive pay, benefits, fair workload, low stress levels, and effective leadership styles. Strong nurse retention solutions prevent skilled nursing staff from leaving your organization and going to a competitor. 

Importance of Retaining Nursing Staff  

Importance of Retaining Nursing Staff

While it may be obvious why you want to retain your nursing staff, did you know it can directly affect your bottom line and the overall success of your long-term care facility? Here are the top reasons why you should implement nurse retention ideas and solutions to keep your skilled senior care staff happy: 

  • Reduce costs: Long-term employee retention is critical for keeping operational costs low. The average cost of turnover for a staff nurse is over $46,000, and it generally takes at least three months for organizations to recruit experienced nurses. This means you may waste valuable time and resources searching for a nurse, reviewing applications, interviewing, and onboarding and training them.
  • Improve facility ratings: Adequate staffing plays a key role in achieving a five-star facility rating. The longer your staff is with your organization, the better company culture and nurse-patient relationships they can build. Long-term staff members will also know your procedures and policies inside and out, helping you comply with federal regulations. 
  • Boost staff morale: Part of improving job satisfaction for your nurses requires boosting the overall company culture. Nursing can sometimes be a high-pressure industry, so offer opportunities for your team members to form positive, supportive, and fulfilling relationships at work. Social outings or fun activities at work can also contribute to the happiness and success of your nurses.
  • Prevent short staffing: Within the last year, nearly 95% of nurses said their organization is short-staffed, and 75% say that their long-term plans in their current position may change if these issues are not corrected. When you work to retain your staff by upholding their well-being and implementing the right solutions, you can prevent short staffing and always keep your shifts filled. 

Tips to Prevent and Reduce Nurse Turnover 

As a facility manager, it can be challenging to reduce a high turnover rate. However, it's possible to build up your nursing staff retention and prevent nursing staff turnover in the future. Here's how to reduce employee turnover in healthcare both proactively and retroactively.

1. Offer a Competitive Salary and Benefits

One of the most effective ways to prevent high nurse turnover is to offer a competitive salary to your nurses and boost your benefits and perks. Nurses who feel under-compensated will likely seek other jobs, particularly if their low wages combine with heavier workloads due to staff shortages. 

If you want to learn how to attract and retain nurses for long-term senior care employment, try to find new incentives that will significantly impact morale in the workplace. To do this, you might research other long-term care facilities in your state to determine the average compensation and benefits packages, which might include:

  • Sign-on bonus
  • Quality health and dental insurance
  • 401k programs
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Extended sick leave
  • Less on-call time for staff members with families
  • Performance-based bonuses
  • Paid time off on major holidays
  • Relocation assistance
  • Autonomy for choosing shifts

2. Recognize and Reward Your Nurses

Recognize and Reward Your Nurses

Another way to prevent nurses from leaving your facility for a competitor is to ensure they feel truly appreciated and valued for their efforts. Celebrate your staff members' contributions to your organization and give them credit when they come up with solutions to problems or when they perform well. Something as simple as one of your nurses making a resident feel safe and cared for is worth acknowledging and praising. You can show your appreciation for your staff by:

  • Organizing appreciation events
  • Offering public praise
  • Creating staff recognition programs
  • Rewarding nurses with prizes, such as gift cards or bonuses
  • Mention their successes during performance reviews and daily conversations

3. Collect and Implement Staff Feedback

One of the main contributors to high turnover is when your nurses do not feel like their voices are being heard. If your staff does not feel that their needs are being met, they will start to look for a facility that can do so. Prioritize your nurses' needs by gathering feedback regularly, whether it's through group meetings, private one-on-one discussions, or anonymous surveys. 

Providing ongoing options for feedback enables your staff to voice their questions, concerns, and ideas, which allows you to show your nurses that you value their opinions and care about their happiness. It's important to address any issues they raise and implement changes promptly. 

4. Implement Fair Scheduling 

If your facility is currently experiencing an unsatisfactory retention rate, consider what your nurses value beyond fair compensation and appreciation. Some senior care facilities may require mandatory overtime, overnight shifts, or inflexible schedules. These schedules can lead to caregiver burnout or general job dissatisfaction due to a poor work-life balance. 

While you won't be able to guarantee all schedule requests for your entire team, you can implement helpful solutions to offer the most desirable options for your nurses. With the Schedule Optimizer and Time and Attendance Tracking features from Smartlinx, you can efficiently create schedules that automatically adapt in real-time to your changing shift needs. This software enables you to reduce unnecessary overtime and ensure you're always staffed.

5. Address Workload Issues With a Staffing Marketplace

If you're struggling to hire nurses, it may leave a heavier workload on your existing staff. You can address these workload issues by investing in technology to help you hire skilled, experienced nurses, like the Staffing Marketplace from Smartlinx. This automated platform connects you with the largest nursing staffing agencies on the market to help you fill empty shifts, reduce scheduling gaps, and avoid compliance penalties.

6. Implement a Workforce Management Suite for All Facility Needs

Enlisting the help of technology can lighten the burden on both your administrative team and staff members. With the healthcare workforce management suite from Smartlinx, you can easily automate manual, repetitive tasks for your team to streamline operations, enhance communication, and improve employee engagement. Such technology makes it possible to enable your staff to complete their tasks while freeing up time for them to spend with patients.

If your goal is to build a connected, motivated workforce, Smartlinx has the solutions you need to empower your team and simplify the way they work. 

See How You Can Support Your Nurses and Raise Retention Rates With Smartlinx

See How You Can Support Your Nurses and Raise Retention Rates With Smartlinx

Your nurses are the most valuable aspect of your long-term care or assisted living facility, so it's important that you prioritize them. To improve your nurses' well-being and support their needs, you'll want an efficient solution that enables you to optimize schedules, track attendance, streamline payroll, and provide access to nursing agencies to help with staffing. At Smartlinx, our workforce management solution has everything you need to attract, retain, and support nurses throughout their career. 

Let Smartlinx equip your team with the tools you need to automate your processes and lighten the workload for your dedicated nursing staff. To learn more about our solutions, contact us today or schedule a demo online

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