Health systems redouble retention efforts as workforce bounces back

Nurse shortages have plagued healthcare in recent years, but with the workforce showing signs of bouncing back, many leaders are turning their attention to retention over recruitment.

The nursing workforce is 6% larger in 2023 than in 2019, a JAMA Health Forum study found, suggesting a rebound to pre-pandemic numbers. The field is expected to grow by 1.2 million full-time registered nurses by 2035.

However, nurses and nurse leaders are reporting more burnout, with 72% of leaders saying they are burned out and 31% considering leaving their jobs, an AMN Healthcare report found. 

Health systems and nursing associations are doubling down on retention strategies to keep more nurses in the field. Below are eight efforts Becker's has reported on since February.

1.The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses launched a knowledge assessment tool designed to provide personalized training to streamline onboarding for ICU nurses and avoid unnecessary or redundant training modules.

2. Omaha-based Nebraska Medicine turned to artificial intelligence to streamline and automate workflows and create deeper employee engagement. The system has reduced first-year nurse turnover by 47% since its implementation.

3. New York City-based NYC Health + Hospitals launched a systemwide nurse residency program that enrolls all new hires into the one-year training, education and mentoring services. Nurses participate in monthly sessions and work on evidence-based practice projects. Since its implementation in 2018, the system has seen its retention rate rise from 46% to 91.8%.

4. Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health focused on creating a strong culture, investing in nurse leadership development and implementing a strong employee referral program to drop its nurse vacancy rate to 6.5%. The referral program offers a $5,000 referral bonus for nurses with two or more years of experience who joins part time or full time from an employee referral, and a $10,000 bonus for operating room positions. In the last year, 1,085 people were referred to the system and 255 joined from those referrals.

5. Mercy Fort Smith (Ark.) Hospital launched a new 18-bed unit, which will have a 4-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio. The unit is designed to provide close-contact, hands-on training for student nurses by allowing them to care for medical telemetry patients under the supervision of an experienced nurse. The team, consisting of one Mercy nurse and two students, cares for up to four patients at a time with the additional aid of a clinical rotation preceptor.

6. Seattle-based Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is implementing virtual nursing as an innovative staffing model. Virtually Integrated Care provides an additional layer of care to better support bedside nurses and patients. 

7. Miami-based Jackson Memorial Hospital established a process where nurses have regular touch points — from the nurse manager level to the senior leader level — to ensure that all are aligned with each nurse and employee's specific goals. With these touch points, leadership works to facilitate those goals and visions, whether it be moving to a unit with a higher level of care, joining a committee or being part of a project that provides exposure to the community. 

8. Houston-based University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center established the Meyers Institute for Oncology Nursing in November to provide wellness, educational and professional resources tailored to oncology nurses and nurse scientists. The hospital also is launching the Nurse Leadership Academy, an internal effort to advance nurses' leadership capabilities and create programs to support nurses throughout their careers.

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