Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been conversation about healthcare staffing shortages. However, the nursing shortage has been an ongoing challenge even before the pandemic. The average age of a nurse in the U.S. is 52 years old. With one million nurses set to retire by 2030, the average human life expectancy continuing to increase, and the number of people graduating from nursing programs remaining somewhat flat, the writing has been on the wall for years. Add in burnout, and new, non-bedside nursing options, and we have a major nursing shortage.
In Medix’s recent webinar, “A New Look at the Nursing Shortage—and the Path Forward,” Medix and Healthcare Brew experts took a deep dive into the current state of nursing staffing and strategies to overcome today’s challenges. Here are five key takeaways to help healthcare organizations combat today’s nursing shortage and build local, permanent nursing staff.
Before any policies can change or any benefits added, healthcare organizations must first listen. Nurses are looking for employers who truly listen to them. Many nurses are more than willing to provide feedback to employers on what they need to do their job to the best of their abilities. Listening to that feedback is key to combating the current nursing shortage. Some nurses are feeling overwhelmed with the number of patients in their care. Others desire more advanced training or opportunities to move into different areas of specialization. Spending time in conversation with nursing staff or providing a way for them to share their feedback is key to making sure nurses feel heard.
2. Ramp up recognition.
Burnout is real, and few people are more stressed from the COVID-19 pandemic than nurses. After years of working extra shifts and caring for millions of patients, nurses are looking for more recognition. The “healthcare heroes” era is over, and most nurses are craving a simple, “thank you,” or “good job today.” Medix and Healthcare Brew have both seen positive results from health systems that have made efforts to ramp up nursing recognition. From appreciation weeks to implementing online recognition boards, organizations prioritizing positivity and recognition for their nursing staff have the best opportunity to build and retain a solid nursing staff.
3. Research the market.
To hire and retain local, permanent nursing staff, healthcare organizations must know the state of the nursing market. Consider conducting a benefits and pay assessment to see how your organization compares to others in the area. Talking with and listening to current staff can also provide excellent insight into how other organizations are attracting and retaining nursing staff.
This is when partnering with a local recruiting firm can be very helpful. Since recruiting firms are experts in the industry and work with multiple healthcare organizations, they can be your eyes and ears in the market. They’ll be able to advise and educate throughout the hiring process so that your organization receives the best and most qualified nursing talent available.
4. Discuss interests and future career paths.
No one likes to be stagnant, and nurses are no different. Many nurses are looking for opportunities for growth and advancement within their careers. Whether that be continued education or opportunity to move into a management position, healthcare organizations must be attentive to the interests and future career paths of their nurses. Medix has worked with several organizations responding to this call for more career growth. A hospital system in California, and a Medix client, saw a need for continued education among their nursing staff. In response, they implemented a tuition reimbursement program. This program offered $10,000 in tuition reimbursement each year for full- and part-time nurses with at least one year of employment. The results were clear. Happier, more fulfilled nursing staff who stayed with the organization instead of seeking employment elsewhere.
5. Offer flexibility.
Over the past few years, the number of people seeking flexible employment has risen dramatically. While many nurses don’t have the opportunity to work from home, there are ways that employers can offer flexible work options. Offering different schedules, shifts and times gives nurses flexibility and balance. Another Medix client tested this out by offering a shortened six-hour shift option. This shortened shift was intended to cover breaks for nurses who may be working longer shifts or offer a more compact schedule for nurses who wanted to work a shorter day. Nurses on staff were thrilled with the new shift implementation. In addition, it offered another added benefit to prospective nurses that may join the organization later on.
The nursing shortage is real. With an aging population, educational barriers, and burnout, solving the nursing shortage will require both short- and long-term solutions. However, one thing is clear: organizations that prioritize building local, permanent nursing staff are poised to see positive results.
Interested in learning more about today’s nursing shortage and strategies to combat it? Watch “A New Look at the Nursing Shortage—and the Path Forward” full webinar here.