How to Increase Nursing Staff Retention

By ShiftMed Team//Healthcare Staffing
African American male nurse supports fellow nurse.

If nurse retention is not a top priority at a healthcare facility, it should be. From 2020 to 2021, the average cost of turnover for one staff RN increased by 15%, bringing the financial implication of healthcare’s labor challenges into view. 

The average turnover cost for one RN is $46,100.

In the 2022 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report, more than 60% of respondents said the RN vacancy rate in their hospital tops 15%, highlighting the severity of the nursing shortage in healthcare. With each percent change in RN turnover, the average hospital will cost or save $262,300 per year. This statistic alone is enough to drive those responsible for ensuring a health system’s financial stability down the path of nurse retention strategies.  

As healthcare systems continue to expand, retaining high-quality healthcare professionals has become crucial to ensuring patients receive the best possible care and maintaining financial stability. To understand where we need to go from here, we first need to understand what nurses want.

What Nurses Want: Current State of Nursing Turnover

In recent years, the state of nursing has continued to wane, with more nurses leaving the profession than entering it. In studies like ShiftMed’s Annual State of Nursing Report, nurses cite work-life balance, pay, and benefits as the primary reasons for leaving or changing jobs. In a survey by Nurse Grid, 61% of nurses reported being concerned about burnout. 

Despite efforts to retain nurses, healthcare organizations continue to lose full-time staff seeking more freedom and flexibility and, as a result, are forced to turn to more expensive, short-term fixes to maintain optimal patient staffing levels. Often times these fixes involve high-cost travel contracts, staffing agencies, and other labor incentives that drive overhead costs up and don’t solve the immediate need of addressing high nursing turnover. 

How to Improve Retention Rates of Nurses 

To improve the retention rates of nurses, healthcare organizations must address the factors that cause dissatisfaction and burnout. The core opportunities include:  

Shift Assignment Control 

Nurses want to have control over their schedules and the type of work they’re doing. If a nurse is better suited to the pediatric unit’s night shift because that’s when they thrive, why shouldn’t they be able to choose that (albeit hard to fill) shift. Offering nurses the ability to work when and where they want puts them in control. By providing autonomy and a sense of control in their daily work, this can help improve job satisfaction. 

Flexible Scheduling/Block Scheduling  

Offering flexibility in scheduling is crucial for retaining nurses. Many nurses have personal commitments outside work, such as caring for children or elderly relatives, or attending school for advanced certifications. Offering part-time or flexible schedules can help provide a sense of relief. 

Increased Pay + Earning Opportunities 

Nurses want to be paid fairly for their work and have the opportunity to earn more by picking up extra shifts that suit their schedule. Offering competitive pay and incentives can help retain nurses. Not to mention, providing opportunities for overtime, bonuses, and advancement can incentivize nurses to stay with the organization. 

Nurse Benefits 

Benefits are a significant factor in nurse retention. Offering benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and continuing education can help retain nurses. Additionally, offering unique benefits such as wellness programs can show nurses that the organization values their well-being. 

Implementing Nurse Retention Strategies 

Understanding the core opportunities in improving the retention of high-quality healthcare professionals is half the battle. What comes next is the action and implementation of those tools across nursing staff. And, in many cases, finding the time, resources, and strategies to do so can be daunting. In some cases, tapping into healthcare workforce solutions like ShiftMed to help relieve the financial strain of nursing turnover and the resultant financial implications can be the perfect strategy. 

Facility partners can leverage "Powered by ShiftMed" to create their own, private-label on-demand workforce marketplace. This turnkey technology solution allows hospitals to seamlessly engage their full-time workforce and float pools with innovative tools that help reduce reliance on external agencies and travel nurses, resulting in lower labor costs and increased retention rates. Picture this—your entire workforce in one system with the same innovative analytics we use to manage over 350,000 workers.   

Whether a health system is trying to reduce their use of travel nurses, or a skilled nursing provider needs to increase staff to maximize occupancy, ShiftMed has your back. Our network of over 350,000 credentialed nurses is standing by and ready to show up to supplement any open shifts. Plus, the same benefits we offer them can be leveraged for partnering facility staff too. 

Retaining high-quality healthcare professionals is crucial for ensuring quality patient care. To improve retention rates, healthcare organizations must consider the needs and desires of their nursing staff, including control, flexibility, pay, and benefits. Because ShiftMed offers its nurses a range of benefits that keep them incentivized and engaged, healthcare organizations can benefit from a fully-credentialed W-2 workforce that is reliable, flexible, and motivated to provide the best possible care.