Nurse managers spend a lot of time predicting and planning for the future, but when it comes to hiring and retaining employees, there are a lot more future problems than possible solutions. In order to retain nurses, the hospitals they work at must be places that people are "dying to work at." But it is hard defining what those hospitals will look like.
Regardless of what the future holds for healthcare and hospitals, most experts agree that recruiting and retaining enough employees will take a lot of change—something that healthcare isn't always good at. So nurse managers need to change the way they look at staffing.
Making it a point to talk about people—and not just systems and processes—in meetings might be a good place to start. Many healthcare professionals have changed the way they talk about their staff and how they hire. Here are some things to keep in mind:
"We don't own them." Gone are the days when facilities could cage their nurses in one department because they feared another facility would "steal" their nurses. Today, smart facilities have learned that they don't own their nurses; so, if they don't offer experience and learning opportunities, other organizations will.
Some hospitals are offering their nurses travel and job-sharing opportunities. Cold-weather hospitals, for example, might allow nurses to travel to Florida for the winter months, then return to their jobs in the spring.
Or, if a good employee at a community hospital does leave to try a job at a larger tertiary system, the community hospital leaves the door open for that employee to one day return. Smart organizations already know that giving their employees exposure to the outside world will keep them on the inside in the future.
"They don't always have to be nurses." How many nurses does it take to run a hospital? It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but some organizations have discovered that they don't need as many nurses as they once thought. Forward-thinking hospitals are using nursing assistants, other staff, even family to take on roles that don't require a nursing degree.
"Newspaper want ads don't work." Your next good employee isn't sitting home with a newspaper and a highlighter. Today's candidates are online, in social networks like Facebook, and writing blogs, so that's where your want ads should be.
"Neither do sign-on bonuses." Often, when hiring gets tough, someone will say, "What about sign-on bonuses?" But, sign-on bonuses, in the long run, only temporarily fill a hole while ticking off other employees. If you want to attract good employees, pitch your facility's learning opportunities. Signing bonuses only attract people who are looking for sign-on bonuses. Once the bonus is spent, they'll be off to find another one.
"Turnover is good." Some CEOs don't want to retain just anybody-even when faced with shortages-so they're committed to hiring only good employees and weeding out bad ones. They'll even hire the right person who has no experience before they'll hire the wrong person who has an impressive resume.
"Who cares about the hospital next door?" It's no longer enough just to emulate the hospital next door when it comes to finding and keeping good employees. Recruitment and retention—if you want them to be effective—must be based on the best practices out there, regardless of whether or not they're found in healthcare. That is where many work force changes are coming from.
Editor's note: This article was adapted from " 'Turnover is good' (and other surprises overheard in healthcare)"