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What I Wanted as a Nurse: A Look into Retaining Your Nursing Workforce

August 23, 2022
Sarah Gray, RN

As a nurse, it’s not uncommon for things to go awry, change rapidly, and happen unexpectedly. We’re prepared to handle whatever comes our way. But something we’ll never get used to is the mental, emotional, and physical toll of working on a chronically understaffed unit.

The Understaffed Nursing Issue

There isn’t a worse way to start your shift than with the charge nurse announcing at huddle that you’re understaffed by 2+ nurses accompanied by phrases like “work together”, “help each other”, and “we’ve got this!” Heck, I’ve even been that charge nurse. You knew from the get-go that that 2+ hour shift was going to feel like an exceptionally long one. A shift, where despite running around without a minute to sit down, you still manage to stare at the clock and wish the hours to pass quicker. They’re the shifts that leave you feeling dread about coming back the next day or wearing your pajamas inside out and praying to the staffing gods that your next scheduled shift will be adequately staffed.

Then, on your off days, it’s not all that uncommon to be barraged by calls or texts because your unit is again understaffed and they’re desperate for help. And as guilty and empathetic as you feel, you simply can’t bring yourself to work yet another understaffed shift on your same unit with the same patients that exhausted you yesterday knowing that you still have another regularly scheduled shift for the week that isn’t optional. 

What I Wanted as a Nurse

I wanted to pick up extra shifts to make some extra money.

I wanted to help out understaffed units and co-workers.

But I couldn’t at the cost of my mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

But I wouldn’t have had to compromise if doing so allowed me some more flexibility with when, where, and how I was willing to do that.

I worked on a high-turnover fast-paced pediatric medical surgical unit and was cross-trained to work on the transitional care unit. Aside from the whole showing up at 6:30am only to abruptly find out I needed to be somewhere else, I really did enjoy floating to other units.

I was the nurse that wanted to float. Who wanted variety and flexibility. Who wanted to work extra shifts - not just for more money but for more experience. But there wasn’t ever an easy way to do it. It would have required the right people knowing, being contacted by call/text on my days off that I may or may not have been available, figuring out how to advocate for getting cross trained not just to other units but other care settings, such as clinics. Sure, a partial solution would have been to transfer to the float pool, but I still wanted a home unit. And I wanted control over where and when I’d float. When and how many additional hours I'd be working to ensure I was balancing personal priorities and could dial up and down for sustainability to avoid burning out. When I (passionately) talked to my leaders about this, they were thrilled about my willingness but conversations met dead ends because there wasn’t a solution or understanding of how to make it happen.

But now there is.

A Modern Solution for Nurse Staffing

I knew there had to be a better solution. Less important and critical problems around me had more modern solutions that I could access from the palm of my hand. So I created it. While picking up additional shifts myself and continuing to work at the bedside would enable me to provide the care to patients and families, I knew as a nurse that I and my colleagues deserved more. I wanted to scale the care and impact that nurses could provide. I wanted to find ways to make nursing more sustainable for those of us who truly love what we do.

So I joined a team of passionate and incredible humans to solve this problem that I knew plagued not just my career and lifestyle, but those of millions of nurses, nurse managers, hospital leaders, and ultimately -- patients.

Key to Retaining a Nursing Workforce

While there are several reasons to implement this technology into your health system, let there be one that trumps all: it will be key to retaining a nursing workforce, and not simply just within your own health system (though it will!) but within the profession. Because without enough clinical nurses who are able to sustain a meaningful nursing career and lifestyle, we’re all in the red {{/flatlined}}

So let’s get to the specifics - the vitals. 

Here’s what you probably already know:

  • Hospital nurse turnover is at an all-time high at 27%.
  • You’re not alone if your health system is 500%+ over premium and incentive spend for 2022.
  • Current tools don’t address many of the chronic workforce challenges - the same ones that have plagued healthcare for over a decade and were only exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • Hiring managers spent 40-60% of their time dedicated to managing schedules and ensuring adequate resourcing due to antiquated technology and unnecessary manual processes.

And here’s what might be new news:

  • 71% of clinicians want more flexibility and control over their schedule.
  • On average, it takes 141 touchpoints, 9 people, and 7 weeks just to fill 1 role.
  • Travel nurses aren’t the only ones that want to work flexibly. You can bring flexible work to your entire clinical workforce - in a standardized, automated, and scalable way.
  • Instead of trying to build up only your core staff, you can create a more robust flexible workforce group -- ultimately decreasing your reliance on agency resources and shifting your staffing model and to a more competitive workforce composition.

The solution:

  • Bring it in-house.
    Make it your own. Staffing is too important to outsource. Build your own efficiently managed scalable workforce program.
  • Drive engagement.
    Make it easy for anyone, FTEs, per-diem, part-time, or agency, to fill open needs based on their preferences and skills.
  • Utilize the workforce you already have more efficiently and intelligently.
    While agency or contingent labor may always be a component of your workforce strategy, we know that expensive hours can’t be your first line of defense. 

Retain Your Nursing Workforce with Trusted Works

With Trusted Works, you can fill shifts quickly and efficiently with the right balance of full time, internal travelers, external contract, on-demand resources, and keep your nurses happy by providing flexibility. Works is healthcare’s first purpose built staffing platform, created for a talent-centric world. Innovative healthcare facilities are already using Works. Are you and your healthcare facility ready to improve your nurse retention with Works? Learn more at https://works.trustedhealth.com.

Resources: 

Drake, R. G. (2014). The ‘robust’ roster: Exploring the nurse rostering process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70, 2095, 2106. (hiring manager)

NSI Nursing Solutions. NSI national healthcare retention & RN staffing report. 2021. (Nurse turnover metric)

Bowie, D., Fischer, R., & Holland, M. (2019). Development and implementation of a forecasting model for inpatient nurse scheduling. Nursing Economics, 37(3): 144–151. (tools)