What 7 CNOs told Becker's about nurse well-being, retention this year

Supporting nurses and promoting their well-being was a top priority for chief nursing officers this year amid workforce shortages and ongoing pandemic stressors. 

Below, find a sampling of insights that CNOs shared with Becker's regarding these efforts in 2022.

Erica DeBoer, RN. Chief Nursing Officer at Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.). We are committed to building a resilient nursing culture focused on innovation and discovery at Sanford Health, and that starts at the bedside. It is a privilege to round and engage with our nurses on the frontlines — their passion, wisdom and perseverance inspires me daily and informs our work as an organization. Open, transparent communication also cultivates trust, empowers our nurses and supports their professional development. I always remind our nurses to never stop believing in the difference they make every day. 

As we continue to face unprecedented challenges in healthcare, including a chronic nursing workforce shortage, we are leveraging technology, predictive analytics and automation to support our nursing workforce and the patients, residents and communities we serve. I am optimistic about the future because of our nurses' unwavering commitment and enthusiasm for delivering care in new ways to enhance the patient experience and improve the health of our communities. 

Ryannon Frederick, RN. Chief Nursing Officer at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.). As a new chief nursing officer, I had a colleague that I respected and trusted who provided advice that I carry with me to this day. During challenging times, relationships are more important than ever.

As nurses, we spend an incredible amount of time with the people we work with, and investing time in those relationships is one of the most important aspects of my role. With the dynamics that are challenging nursing and health care, this has become more and more challenging, but also more and more important. Caring is the foundation of nursing practice. Comforting people and families that are suffering, grieving, fighting for hope and healing is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. But the rewards received in return outweigh all the challenges. Nothing is better than seeing how patients and people are better because of your interventions, touch, compassion and vision.

Each day, I look for opportunities to strengthen relationships through open communication and modeling authentic and transparent behaviors. I remain true to myself in my actions and words. An example of this is that I try to develop trust by following through on commitments and seeking input and perspectives, both positive and negative, prior to making a decision. Just like the staff that I lead, I am driven by the desire to make a difference. And working so hard on building strong, sustaining relationships has been the key to much of my success throughout my career. 

Puneet Freibott, RN. Vice President of Nursing at Barnes Jewish Hospital (St. Louis). Achieving patient-centric care requires an employee-centric healthy work environment. I believe that the real inspiration and innovation comes from being authentic and transparent with your front-line staff and leaders. Invite them into conversation by listening, following through, appreciating them and holding yourself and the teams accountable for the care delivered inspires staff at all levels to dare greatly and produce unsurpassed solutions and outcomes.

Once you allow the team to be connected to their purpose in a shared leadership and just culture environment, they tend to become owners and not renters of your vision and mission. When the employees know that you are leading from the front, they allow you to make mistakes and become your thought partners. I believe that it is that true partnership of the leader with the team that keeps the spirit of inspiration and innovation alive at all levels.

Joan Halpern. Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital (New York City). I'm a proponent of 'people first.' We've taken steps to maximize communication, transparency and relationships with the front-line team members, so they are kept in the loop and included in decision-making about the future. Shared ownership over creating solutions to new and evolving challenges are essential in making sure we can adapt effectively to the changes we see in the workforce landscape. 

That being said, we are in a time where additional support is needed for the workforce. We've developed and implemented more comprehensive programs to foster the transition of new employees into our organization and specialty environments. We've also created additional structures to support our experienced team members who have been inundated with training new team members. 

And lastly, it all comes down to leadership. We've put substantial resources into developing our current and emerging leaders, so they can be active and consistent partners in creating a positive practice environment, especially during future periods of change.

Pidge Lohr, DNP, RN, CENP. Vice President of Nursing Operations at Prisma Health (Greenville, S.C.). As the vice president for nursing operations, I lead a system support department across the care settings of acute, post-acute and ambulatory nursing, and I don't believe it's a secret to how we keep ourselves inspired and driven to innovation. Every day, in every meeting, every interaction and every decision, we remember that we are here to care for patients as much as our colleagues on the campuses are, even if we don't directly touch patients. Patients are always in the center of all we do. Whether it is my nursing innovation and practice director or my project manager, they all need to see themselves as caregivers to our patients. We support the clinical teams at the bedside. We hold each other accountable for calling it out when we are making a decision that suits us best — without collaborating with our campus leaders to make sure it works for the care they deliver to our patients. If you keep the patient in the center of what you do, you will remain inspired!

Athena Minor, RN. Chief Nursing and Clinical Officer at Ohio County Healthcare (Hartford, Ky.). My secret for keeping a spirit of inspiration and innovation alive on my team is to allow for failure. Not every new idea is going to succeed, but giving the team the opportunity to try and fail keeps the fear of failure out of the equation. This allows the team to think as far outside of the box as they like. If they present a solution and it is fiscally feasible, legal, ethical and does not break regulatory guidelines, they are encouraged to attempt implementation.

There is a period set for evaluation and, if it is not working, then we start over. The team is valued for the effort that is put into finding viable solutions and are not ridiculed or admonished for failed attempts. I would rather implement 10 failures to find one successful solution than not have solutions brought to the table because of the fear of failure. Sometimes our greatest solutions are born from our failures. It is amazing how creative people can be when they have the freedom to fail.

Kathy Sanford, DBA, RN. Executive Vice president and Chief Nursing Officer of CommonSpirit Health (Chicago). Many nurses work 12-hour shifts now, and that is pretty wearing as you get closer to retirement age. Not to say we don't have some really peppy people at all ages, but it does get wearing and so one of the things we are all going to have to look at is giving people who want to retire or are close to retirement, the opportunity to work shorter shifts. That's a little bit difficult for management leadership because they have to fit that puzzle together and make sure there is enough staff there, but it is something that we can do. 

The second thing that we think is going to help us a lot is using more and more virtual nurses. And those virtual nurses are needed that have the wisdom and experience to help the other nurses to do things like admissions, discharges and transfers, educating the patients and making rounds with the physicians virtually — that will be a way, we think, to extend some of our nurses' careers because it's not so physically taxing. 

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