Nurse Retention: Impacts on Quality of Care and Strategies to Improve

Nursing shortages, nurse retention, and nurse burnout are ongoing concerns for healthcare systems globally, and it’s nothing new. Before the pandemic, the World Health Organization reported a global shortfall of 5.9 million nurses. Exacerbated by the emotional and physical demands of work, increased stress and workloads, higher risks of infection, retirement, and inadequate staffing levels, the pre-pandemic number has increased significantly with over 13 million nurses required globally by 2030.

Nurse Burnout: Why Is It Happening?

Nurse burnout is rising, and nurses are leaving their jobs in high numbers. The American Nurses Association lists several reasons for this occurrence: 

  • Unsustainable working conditions including long shifts, constant pressures, understaffed systems, and lack of leadership support. 
  • Chronic stress levels and compassion fatigue. 
  • More flexible and higher paying job options in travel nursing or other health professions.
  • Inexperienced leadership filling the shoes of retiring healthcare administrators. 
  • Bad culture and work environment due to bullying and incivility.
  • Being undervalued with a lack of career progression options.
  • Unsafe and unmanageable patient loads.

Strategies to Increase Nurse Retention

With high nurse turnover rates, healthcare systems are grappling with strategies to decrease nurse burnout, increase a sense of belonging within the nursing profession, and retain nurses to continue providing quality patient care to communities. Wolters Kluwer, one of Kahuna’s collaborative partners in the healthcare space, explored nurse retention strategies and ways to address these challenges:

Using innovative care models by shortening shifts, placing more experienced staff to oversee newer nurses, exploring opportunities for remote work, and understanding what guidance and knowledge are needed for novice nurses to be successful in their roles.

Offering flexible staffing with rotation opportunities for those who need a change of pace, or part-time options for nurses who can no longer commit to full-time, rather than losing their skills completely if they choose to leave the organization.


Does Skills Management Help Retain Nurses?

Nurse burnout rates are soaring. What is your health system doing to combat this and support your nursing staff? 

NPDs from Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago talked with Kahuna about how they’re using skills management to increase mobility, decrease burnout, empower development, and promote nurses within the health system.

Developing unique compensation offerings with at-home professional development, paid time off on special holidays, reduced on-call time, and more emphasis on recharging to boost morale and well-being.

Establishing a formal mentor program and a shared governance committee to encourage and empower experienced staff, recognize their level of experience and knowledge, and also allow them to share this with others within the unit.

Providing needed supplies and equipment to enable nurses to quickly obtain materials with ease, lessening the frustration around time spent on meaningless tasks, and increasing time providing patient care.

Retain Nurses with Skills and Competency-Based Staffing Models

In addition to the strategies suggested above, Kahuna has seen first-hand how digitized nursing competency management can positively impact healthcare organizations as they strive to reduce nurse burnout and fatigue and increase nurse retention.

Provide Transparency for Role Requirements, Training Needs, and Professional Development

Digitizing competency management keeps onboarding, orientation, assessment, training, and professional development data all in one system. This allows nurses, managers, and supervisors to each have access to the same documentation at the same time. 

This type of visibility enables nurses to feel more empowered and have a voice in how they progress in their roles, rather than being told what to do and how to do it. As training needs arise, it’s apparent what requirements are unfulfilled and what training is needed. When looking to pursue professional development, nurses can gain insights into what skills and experiences are needed to take the next step. Giving nurses a glimpse into their future equips them to pursue those goals, and encourages participation in clinical ladder programs to grow within the organization. 

Ultimately, providing visibility into competency expectations and requirements helps facilitate open lines of communication between nurses, managers, preceptors, and administrators. This demonstrates to nurses that leadership is invested in them and genuinely interested in their growth, and fosters a more robust sense of rapport and community within the health system for everyone.


Promote Nurses for Their Skillset Rather Than Tenure

Staying in the same healthcare system for long periods of time isn’t the norm anymore. As better opportunities arise – in or out of the nursing profession – nurses tend to follow them. To retain nurses within the health system and increase longevity, providing and encouraging growth in several different avenues is critical. Rather than promoting solely based on years of being a nurse or tenure within the organization, reward nurses for other accomplishments such as new skill sets, training programs, clinical achievements, continuing education credits, or professional organization involvement. Providing clear objectives, motivating nurses to move from novice to expert, and tying these things to increased compensation inspires nurses to meet higher-level skill expectations, and ultimately, provide better quality patient care.

Allow for Flexible Work Options Within Your Health System

The new generation of nurses is interested in as much flexibility as possible. With many of their friends having the opportunity to “WFH”, nurses feel a bit of “FOMO”. By digitizing a nurse’s skill set, their ability to move from unit to unit and work independently becomes much easier. 

A nurse’s skills “passport” within Kahuna proves the competencies already completed and enables them to begin applying this knowledge and caring for patients. It also creates opportunities for cross-training between units. Nurses caring for patients at different acuity levels can then bring that experience back to their home unit, and become a source of knowledge for the nursing staff there.

Organizations that take advantage of this transferability open opportunities for nurses to move fluidly throughout the health system to pick up shifts easily. This flexibility gives nurses a sense of control, despite the requirement of always being at the bedside.


Put the WHY Behind Learning Modules and Resources

Rather than fueling the fire of nurse burnout and assigning new learning modules with no explanation, digitized competency management provides a fuller picture of what is required for each role. Each learning resource (YouTube videos, policies and procedures, LMS training, and internal materials) can be linked directly to the skills and competencies to provide an accessible roadmap for development. This ease of access and documentation empowers nurses to engage more effectively with the learning materials they are provided, all in the flow of work.

Benefits of Nurse Retention

Nurses are critical to the healthcare community and there are a multitude of strategies organizations can employ to support, empower, and encourage their nursing staff. As processes and programs are implemented, nurse retention rates will mimic these efforts, benefitting the nursing community, patients, and the health system overall. Examples include:

  • Improved nurse job satisfaction, leading to increased nurse resilience, hope, optimism, and overall staff morale.
  • Better balanced nursing resources across units and patient needs, leading to reduced nurse burnout and fatigue.
  • Units staffed with the most qualified resources, improving patient safety outcomes, minimizing errors, and increasing positive patient interactions.
  • Increased productivity and quality measures for patient care. 
  • Decreased costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and repetitive training.

Improving Nurse Retention and Patient Care with Competency Management

The Nursing Times explained the nursing shortage as a ‘global health emergency,’ and the National Library of Medicine reported clinician and nurse burnout as a real threat to the stability of US healthcare. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, and organizations must address these shortages with strategic policies and programs to improve nurse retention.

Digitizing nurse competencies within one platform not only streamlines administrative processes but also provides ample opportunities to support nursing staff and leadership in their everyday care for patients and in the longevity of their careers. 

Used as the basis for orientation, staffing, learning, professional growth, and clinical ladder programs, nurses will not only feel more valued and empowered but be equipped to perform at the top of their licensure for each of their patients. 

Want to learn more about increasing nurse retention and engaging your caregivers with skills management? Talk with a Kahuna skills advisor!