'Go back to your mission': City of Hope nursing leader on improving turnover rates

With the national nursing turnover rate hitting 22.5% in 2023, Duarte, Calif.-based City of Hope is working hard to create an environment and culture that ensures nursing support.

"Our clinical nurse turnover for 2023 was just under 10% for City of Hope's Southern California locations. We've also successfully created opportunities for nurses to move within the organization — not only vertically, but also horizontally — allowing them to grow and develop professionally without leaving the organization," Susan Brown, PhD, RN, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at City of Hope, told Becker's

Designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope has more than 11,000 team members with locations across Arizona, California, Georgia and Illinois.

To ensure a sustainable nursing workforce, Dr. Brown said City of Hope regularly conducts succession plans at all nursing levels to identify emerging leaders and address potential leadership gaps. 

City of Hope also provides a graduate nurse residency program and a nurse fellowship, mentoring opportunities, and a career development track program, and ensures a diverse set of nursing voices is constantly present.

"It benefits our mission and fuels our robust workforce for the future," she said. "We also offer competitive compensation packages with incentives for certification, weekend and night work, and we also work hard to celebrate and reward behaviors that are at the foundation of our patient-centric culture."

City of Hope dedicated a new role to help with recruitment and retention in 2023 and hosts monthly nursing town halls to help with nursing and organization leader engagement. 

Dr. Brown feels it's key for healthcare organizations to provide nurses with opportunities to engage with industry leaders and peers.

"We encourage and support our staff when they submit abstracts to local, state, and national conferences and then we support their attendance when abstracts are accepted," she said. "In 2023, 17 abstracts were submitted for consideration and 15 were accepted for poster or podium presentations."

While high turnover is something that continues to be dealt with across the healthcare industry, Dr. Brown encourages leaders to remain focused on their people.

"For any healthcare leader, my advice would be to go back to your mission even in the face of change, prioritize the needs of your nurses, and balance that with standardized systems and efficiencies needed for your organization to function well," she said. "Be transparent, communicate often and clearly, listen and be approachable so you can align your organizational priorities with your nursing workforce's priorities."

Like what you see? City of Hope will have a speaker at the Becker's Academic Medical Center Leadership forum April 8-9 in Chicago. Hospital and health system leaders, click here to apply for a complimentary badge. Interested in exhibitor or sponsorship opportunities to connect with 3,000+ hospital and health system leaders? Download the prospectus here. Thank you to our sponsor ECG Management.

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