'Let's hear their voices': Nursing leader on combating nurse turnover

With a recent report showing the nurse vacancy rate remains "critical" at 15.7% nationally, many health leaders are shedding light on the importance of reducing these numbers.

"Lack of support, healthy work environment. There's an increase in patient behaviors. That is very challenging for nurses, how to manage the behavioral patient, and it's just been on a high rise. You see it in primary care, you see it in the ED, you see it on the news. There's nurses losing their lives in these situations," Stacy Bentil, DNP, MSN, RN, told Becker's.

Dr. Bentil said a nurse's environment is a key factor for why we might be seeing higher turnover rates, and stresses the importance of looking at the "holistic" picture.

"You've got to look at it with a different lens, try to reverse it. More well-being, mindfulness and wellness for those nurses. They're running around, 12-hour shifts, one bathroom break, if that, and a 30-minute lunch for 12 to 13 hours. Can we change the lens and maybe institute some type of well-being, wellness activity throughout the day just to kind of keep the momentum going," she said. 

Along with improvements to work life balance and loan forgiveness programs, Dr. Bentil said nurses deserve to feel heard.

"Let them go to conferences and learn more. Let them partner with leadership and not just see leadership at the high level. Where's the front-liners at? Let's see them. Let's hear their voices. It's very important," Dr. Bentil said.

To ensure nurses are not overwhelmed in their workplace, Dr. Bentil pointed to health policy to ensure proper staffing levels and workload assessments. 

"It needs to be looked at on a congressional level because nursing is everywhere. It's international, they're always going to need it, so how do we make it conducive and safe to be able to practice with the ratios that nurses are facing today."

To combat existing nurse turnover rates, Dr. Bentil suggested healthcare organizations look to international nursing. 

"They're very innovative and have different ideas as well. Partner with them. Let's make it global. It's a global profession."

Dr. Bentil also highlighted the importance of capturing nursing interest even at a high school level. 

"Can they shadow in the summertime? A little internship, just to get acclimated to say this is cool, this is something I like, this is something I feel like I'll be passionate about and can provide great care to patients. Something I identify with."

Along with looking at nursing through a new lens, Dr. Bentil said it's important for organizations to be at the forefront of engagement.  

"It is a challenge. We take it day by day, we strategize, if we were in our bedside nurses' shoes, what would we want? Hear the patient's feedback as well. Really try to cater to best practices," she said. 

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