The top 4 factors for retaining nurses, according to Incredible Health CEO Dr. Iman Abuzeid

With an estimated 130,000 new cases reported each day and ongoing staff shortages across the country, the highly transmissible BA.5 variant of the coronavirus, a subvariant of omicron, poses a threat to recruiting and retaining nurses. Iman Abuzeid, MD, CEO and co-founder of Incredible Health, an organization that matches nurses with available hospitals and health systems positions, weighed in on this issue with Becker's and has solutions for how hospitals can best tackle further nursing shortages. 

Question: How will the BA.5 variant worsen the nursing shortage in the U.S.?

Dr. Iman Abuzeid: We're seeing our retention rates decrease. The turnover right now among nurses is at 21 and a half percent, and it's the highest it's ever been in several decades, obviously. There is severe fatigue and burnout happening among the nursing workforce as well, which is driving up those turnover rates. … We're seeing that one-third of nurses are considering leaving the workforce permanently due to fatigue and burnout and understaffing. These surges do have a dramatic impact on the nursing workforce because they are being overworked.

Q: When it comes to recruiting and retaining nurses, what have you seen work well, and what doesn't work?

IA: Our marketplace has quite a lot of data that shows why nurses are changing jobs in the first place. By far, the No. 1 reason is to pursue career advancement. They're trying to expand their skills, or cross-train or move into management. … The second most common reason is they're looking for more flexible scheduling. They're trying to make their schedules work for their lives. The third most common is something to do with geography; they're relocating or trying to reduce their commute times. The last is higher pay. In that order, what we're seeing is that hospitals and health systems that put in place strategies and tactics to tackle those four reasons, in that order, tend to hire the most and they also retain [nurses]. 

Q: There have been some hospitals that have been starting to offer on-site child care to encourage retaining staff. Do you expect more hospitals and health systems to adopt something like that?

IA: The full menu of perks and benefits is on the table. Having a permanent nurse staff that's hired and retained is mission critical for many of these hospitals and health systems. They can't deliver on patient care without that. We've seen more investment in career advancement. We've seen career mobility plans get documented and then invested in. We've seen child care programs. We have even seen free parking and more relocation assistance. 

Q: What advice do you have for hospital and health system leaders struggling to navigate the shortage of nurses? 

IA: I think overall we have to meet nurses where they are. We need to cater to what they're looking for. Because at the end of the day, this is a severe nursing shortage and the demand is dramatically outpacing the supply. Our studies show, we have 10 percent of U.S. nurses on our platform right now. When they're creating profiles on our marketplace, we're asking them, "What are the reasons why you're changing jobs?" or "Why are you considering leaving?" So, if we know that those top reasons were looking for career advancement, looking for more flexible scheduling, looking for relocation, or looking for higher pay, and ensuring that the strategies and tactics that you have in place match, that is going to be critical.

I will say one other thing I would add is, we see this in every single market where we operate, whether it's Los Angeles, or Houston, or Dallas, or New York, or Philadelphia, the speed in which you hire your internal hiring operations is critical to your success. So there's usually three key factors of hiring the most that we see on our platform: speed, and how quickly you're able to hire. The second is your brand; the third is your compensation. We see time and time again that hospitals and health systems that have the best hiring operations … [where] there's no delays with getting nurses into hiring processes, tend to hire more than their competitors in the same local market that might have a bigger brand and in many cases might have a higher salary. 

We also see that 61 percent of nurses on our platform are accepting the very first offer they receive, even if the next subsequent offers have higher pay. 

So, there's something about speed — that's a huge factor here. It drives a very positive candidate experience. Ninety-nine percent of nurses are already working so they're doing their job searches while they're working. So they're looking for a really efficient, and then you know, delightful process, not one with huge delays, or where they're left in the dark about what's happening. 

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