Nurse satisfaction drives better healthcare outcomes

Recent research findings are compellingly clear: Although engaging and retaining critical talent in health care organizations can be a challenge, organizations that achieve strong levels of engagement are more likely than others to deliver better-quality patient care and achieve higher rates of patient satisfaction. As a critical talent segment, nurses are at the heart of a healthcare organization's ability to succeed during this increasingly competitive and turbulent time for the industry.

Towers Watson's 2014 Global Workforce Study revealed that 17 percent of nurses are disengaged; another 34 percent feel unsupported and report a lack of tools, resources and energy to do their work well, and 26 percent say they are likely to leave their organization within the next two years.

Additional studies have shown that engagement and satisfaction in the work environment have a direct impact on employee safety, absenteeism, patient safety and satisfaction, operating margin and operating income. Clearly, the ability to engage nurses and support them with the tools and resources they need can have a meaningful impact on a healthcare organization's success.

Our experience working with healthcare organizations points to three key tips for raising nurse satisfaction and engagement levels:

Employee value proposition (EVP). Just 38 percent of nurses feel their organization lives up to its EVP. Tip: Review, refresh or create an EVP that is aligned to your business strategy and includes nurses as a key talent segment. Ensure that the nursing population is a focal point of your talent management strategy by providing clear job roles and expectations, career paths, and support for learning and development.

Manager effectiveness. Only 43 percent of nurses feel senior leaders are effective at their jobs, compared to 61 percent of hospital employees in general. Even more surprising, 27 percent of nurses feel their immediate managers are ineffective. Tip: Work with senior leaders and managers to improve communication and accountability, and reinforce the right manager behaviors with clear goals and objectives. Consider formally clarifying key competencies and expectations, and building on these capabilities with focused leader or manager training as needed.

Enablement. Less than half (47 percent) of nurses feel they have manageable levels of stress at work resulting from inadequate staffing, excessive workload or lack of control over working hours and overwhelming performance demands. Tip: Ask for ideas from your nurses about positive health and well-being activities — such as walking/jogging groups, yoga, social sporting activities — that might be put in place to help alleviate stress. In addition, see whether some of the internal administrative burden currently carried by nurses could be shifted to others or delayed. Finally, empower your team to manage the workload by creating a culture where they can engage in conversations about re-prioritizing work, helping one another and controlling how the work is done.

Journey to Magnet Recognition
Some healthcare organizations track and improve nurse satisfaction and performance by embarking on a journey toward Magnet recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The Magnet Recognition Program recognizes healthcare organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. Achieving this recognition often requires several years of dedicated continuous improvement, and many organizations find the journey itself results in higher performance. Further, achieving Magnet designation can create a competitive edge for your organization in terms of attracting both top talent and a greater share of the market.

If you believe your organization is ready to embark on this journey, consider the role engagement and workplace satisfaction play in achieving your quality outcomes and whether you have sufficient measurement approaches in place to understand areas of potential improvement. Many healthcare organizations regularly measure employee opinion; consider using that process to measure perceptions of the workplace elements required by the ANCC.

Jill Perkins can be reached at

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