An image of a nurse sitting down with two elderly patients inside a hospital.

Today's healthcare leaders face numerous complex challenges, such as rising expenditures and shifting payment models—but those aren't the most pressing issues keeping them up at night. According to a recent American College of Healthcare Executives survey, staff shortages and burnout are the primary concerns, with 90% of hospital CEOs putting nursing shortages among the most critical.

High workloads and burnout are taking a toll on nurses, with 800,000 RNs and 184,000 LPNs likely to leave the profession by 2027.

So, how should you go about improving nurse job satisfaction in your hospital? Because job satisfaction in nursing varies by employer and setting, it's vital to understand the drivers of career happiness across your hospital units.

Consider conducting exit interviews with the nurses leaving your organization. Interviewing or surveying them can help you identify problems and develop solutions to retain nursing talent. You might also look to staffing agency best practices for inspiration.

Staffing Agency Best Practices

Research by MIT Sloan Management Review indicates that nurses employed by staffing agencies are generally more satisfied than those working directly for hospitals and health systems.

Staffing agencies received higher ratings in several key areas, including resolving issues, psychological safety, and communication. On the other hand, hospitals and healthcare systems rated higher for learning and development, benefits, and promotion opportunities.

A graph showing that staffing agencies rate better than hospitals on resolving issues, psychological safety, and frequent communication.

1. Offering Flexible Staffing for Nurses

Many nurses leave their hospital jobs and work for staffing agencies because they’re tired of the long hours and rigid schedules. By working with staffing agencies, nurses can reduce burnout by having more control over their schedules and achieving a better work-life balance.

Based on its three-year annual assessment survey, the American Nurses Foundation found that 58% of nurses consider work-life balance the most important factor in job satisfaction.

With job flexibility increasingly contributing to nurse career satisfaction, major health systems are exploring ways to incorporate this dynamic into their healthcare facilities.

In the AONL webinar "Unlock Nursing Operational Success Flexible Staffing,” Jessica Potts, System Senior Director of Strategic Workforce Operations for SSM Health in Missouri, says employment priorities for nurses differ from five years ago, with job flexibility among the most common. "At SSM Health, we're working extensively to address this new priority."

Technology limitations and integration complications previously prevented hospitals from adopting flexible staffing models, but that's no longer an issue. With the introduction of custom-branded mobile app technology, bringing flexible staffing into your operations is now easy and cost-effective.

2. Providing Psychological Safety for Nurses

Nurses seek environments that foster trust, respect, and mutual support. These environments allow them to voice their concerns and have their feedback taken seriously without fear of negative consequences.

According to MIT Sloan research, staffing agency nurses often feel more positive about their psychological safety when addressing difficult issues than nurses working in hospitals and healthcare systems.

Making psychological safety a priority is vital for improving nurse job satisfaction in hospitals. In the Pulse Check webinar "Empowering Nursing Teams Through Mentorship," Monica Bologna, Chief Nursing Officer at West Jefferson Medical Center in Louisiana, discusses the facility's programs to prevent burnout and promote the psychological well-being of nursing staff—all of which contribute to a 90% retention rate.

"We focus on the voices of our frontline staff via programs that give them a say in how things are directed through a structured governance system," she said. "We have Service Excellence Advisors (SEAs) in all areas of our hospital who meet with the executive team at least once a month."

3. Tailoring Incentives for Nurses

Tailoring incentives to meet the diverse needs of your staff ensures that all nurses feel valued and supported. Job satisfaction increases when incentives align with individual preferences.

For instance, a nurse with transportation challenges would appreciate and feel more valued by a transportation stipend or service. Offering same-day pay can help nurses manage unexpected expenses, making them feel more secure. Many staffing agencies use such incentives to recruit and retain nurses effectively.

According to the "Death of the Traditional Paycheck" online survey, nearly 3 out of 4 U.S. employees want access to their wages before payday, and over 57% said they would work harder and stay longer at a company that offers same-day pay.

Nurse Job Satisfaction in Hospitals Conclusion

Improving nurse job satisfaction is crucial for addressing the current staffing shortages and burnout plaguing hospitals. By adopting staffing agency best practices and leveraging your hospital's distinct advantages, such as learning and development opportunities, you can create a more supportive and flexible work environment where nurses can thrive.

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