Making time to listen to your staff to improve retention

Nurses are worn out and burnt out. According to a recent study by CareerBuilder, 70 percent of U.S. nurses claim that daily demands and stressful situations have them feeling burnt out in their current job.

Contributing factors to nurse burnout range from long shifts to sleepless nights. These effects are due to the current nurse shortage that’s pressuring nurses to take on an unhealthy workload.

In this current climate of the nursing shortage, it’s essential for hospital executives to focus on the mental state of the nurses. If nurses are not happy and healthy, patient care will suffer.

As the VP of Clinical Operations at an international nurse staffing agency, a big part of my job is ensuring that our nurses are doing well on their assignment, both clinically and mentally. As part of our protocol for nurse care, I regularly travel to visit our nurses in-person to find out how they’re doing, as well as give them daily support through phone calls if needed. I realize it’s not always possible to give customized care to everyone on staff, especially if the unit is understaffed with a high volume of patients. However, the best way to support them through the emotional stress is to listen to them. It sounds obvious in theory, but hospital managers may find it difficult to schedule time to individually meet with their nurses on a weekly basis.

Some alternative ways to listen to staff and still keep up with daily demands is to send out a monthly email survey asking staff to rate their happiness on a color scale – from red, yellow and green. Assess the month’s overall color and hold a staff meeting to discuss the issues and create an action plan on how to resolve them. This way individuals can give personalized feedback, and feel that they are being listened to, while the staff manager is acting to ensure the nurses are being cared for.

Leveraging social media is also a great tool to hear employees out. A lot of companies like to use private Facebook groups for their staff to engage with one another and discuss external and internal issues effecting their jobs. Including a moderator for a private group helps filter through comments that focus on common issues among nurses or if it’s a personal issue that needs to be addressed by human resources. The unit manager should hold a weekly meeting to address the topics in the Facebook group and how to resolve them.

Handing out a white board or a poster during your next meeting, and asking everyone to give feedback on issues they’re encountering is another great way to hear your nurses out. When the board makes its way through the staff, read all the comments and address them one by one, if necessary.

Half of the battle of listening in a hospital environment is making the time to listen. Streamlining the feedback process is essential in keeping your finger on the pulse to ensure a healthy workplace for employees.

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