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Key Facts About Nurse Satisfaction and Improving Retention

Healthcare as a whole has seen staffing challenges for decades now, with nursing staff taking the brunt of it. This has proven to be majorly concerning, since nursing turnover rates directly impact patient outcomes. Turnover contagion and burnout among staff results in thinly spread resources across the facility, decreasing quality of care and increasing the likelihood of mistakes.

A significant number of nurses say they are unsatisfied in their jobs, citing being burnt out, overworked, underpaid, and experiencing harassment or even violence from patients. Thus, some have turned toward travel nursing, which generally includes a higher wage, but doesn't have the same stability or benefits as a full-time job. 

Nurse satisfaction and retention efforts have been a top priority for many health systems over the past few years, so here we'll go over how to understand it, the impact unsatisfactory working conditions have, and key strategies for improving overall nurse satisfaction in your health system.


Understanding Nurse Satisfaction

It comes as little surprise, but during and since the COVID pandemic, nurse satisfaction has been at a significant low point. Due to a combination of being bullied by patients, working overtime to the point of burnout, turnover contagion, nursing staff left their jobs in droves at the pandemic's peak. However, since the dust has settled, other factors have come to the forefront of dissatisfaction — a lack of upward mobility, structural support, and professional development, to name a few.


How Poor Working Conditions for Nurses Affect Patient Outcomes

Poor working conditions — understaffing, long hours, a lack of support, etc. — play a major role in patient outcomes, and thus your organization's reputation. Nurses who regularly  work multiple shifts per day are more likely to become burnt out and prone to errors in patient monitoring and administering medication. When a hospital is understaffed and resources are spread thin, nurses spend less time with each patient and are therefore more likely to delay treatment or miss signs of illness. Additionally, nurses who are tired and overworked become more irritable and snippy with their patients. In a job where emotional intelligence and empathy are critical, this can lead to higher rates of patient dissatisfaction. 

The bottom line is that poor working conditions significantly affect the physical and mental wellbeing of nursing staff and therefore patients. Prolonged periods of thinned resource availability has already proven to be unsustainable in the long haul, so what can you do to ensure your own nurse satisfaction?


Key Strategies for Enhancing Nurse Satisfaction


Fostering a Supportive Environment

Ensuring nurse satisfaction begins with fostering a supportive work environment. This comes in many different forms, including, but not limited to:

  • Hiring enough staff: Workloads should be spread as evenly as possible to minimize overtime and burnout. This may sound easier said than done, but with so many contingent staffing options that are available, filling gaps is as simple as ever. When all is said and done, the costs incurred from hiring a few travel nurses is well worth keeping your full-time staff satisfied in the long run.
  • Offer competitive wages/benefits: This seems obvious, but you may be surprised at how infrequent competitive pay and benefits actually are. Plus, you can get creative with your benefits offered. Even if base salaries aren't the highest, you can make up for it in other ways — sabbaticals, improved learning opportunities, mental health resources, flexible scheduling, etc. If you aren't familiar with what current market rates are, a VMS can help you understand the landscape in realtime.
  • Advancement opportunities: People don't want to be stuck in dead-end jobs, including nurses. But this doesn't necessarily mean every nurse needs to be promoted to a leadership position. Rather, it means giving them more autonomy in their career. This means continued learning opportunities, promotions, higher visibility, and other forms of empowerment, which are directly linked to high satisfaction and reduced turnover, help staff participate in decision making. When employees feel that they have a direct impact in decision making, it increases trust in the organization.


Offering Professional Development Opportunities 

Personal development opportunities are not only important for your organization's competitiveness, they are directly tied to staff turnover rates. The more your employees can learn and grow, the more likely they are to feel respected in their roles and reciprocate that respect back to the organization.

But continuing education shouldn't just be focused on hard skills like operating new technology, how to administer certain medications, etc. They should also focus on soft skills, particularly for those in nursing. Skills like empathetic communication, patience, adaptability to new scenarios, time management, and stress management are all skills that aren't usually taught explicitly but are nonetheless critical in administering proper care for patients.

Some ways you can teach these soft skills to you workforce include:

  • Setting up sponsorship and mentorship programs
  • Include soft skills within training guides and onboarding protocols
  • Organize workshops that are specifically about soft skills
  • Provide stipends for seminars, conferences, and other learning/networking events
  • Create leadership development programs


HWL's Technology Solutions Can Manage Nurse Satisfaction

All of this sounds good in theory, but it's a lot to manage. Technology solutions like HWL's vendor management system (VMS), help healthcare companies big and small manage their talent in one centralized, easy-to-use platform. With internal resource pool features such as master and unit-based scheduling, broadcasting open positions via mobile app, custom filters on availability, tracking of staff credentials and performance, and more, managing the unique workflow requirements of the many labor categories, including nursing, is easy to streamline.

Further, our suite of workforce management solutions also includes managed service programs to help you glean insights into how you can stay competitive and further improve contract management, onboarding, and more.

To find out how HWL can help you improve overall retention rates and employee satisfaction, get in touch today.

April 16, 2024/By Nancy Bourg RN, BSHCA, MBA
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Author: Nancy Bourg RN, BSHCA, MBA

Nancy Bourg joins HWL as the Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Clinical Operations. A pioneer in hospital staffing solutions, Nancy is recognized as a Subject Matter Expert for her depth of knowledge on both the buyer (hospital/providers) and supplier (agency) sides of the staffing equation. In her role with HWL, Nancy leverages this expertise to create cost-effective client solutions that generate and maximize revenue, all while delivering unparalleled customer service.
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