Losses among the ranks of nurses and physicians play a major role in the current staffing shortages in health care. For these clinicians, burnout and the draw of early retirement are contributors to the shortage in addition to a growing and aging population that requires more care providers.
Hospitals and health facilities are looking for ways to attract new talent while finding new and innovative ways to train their current talent. Across the United States, the average nursing turnover rate varies from 8.8% to 37% depending on specialty and location. Despite these alarming figures, medical schools have continued to see an increase in enrollment, even during the pandemic even though affording education is a concern for many, according to the American Medical Association.
The emotional, mental and lifestyle demands of providing quality, equitable medical care mean that retention requires more than just raising salaries. Some of the ways hospitals are meeting the challenge of clinician shortages is by investing in people's education and skill development, as well as their emotional and mental well-being.
Investing in Education
Many nurses have significant debt from their education, which ranges on average from about $20,000 to $50,000 depending on the college degree attained. Employers that offer tuition assistance or loan repayment programs find nurses stay longer and are more likely to progress in their careers within the organization. This leads to savings in recruitment and retention costs.
Some hospital leaders attribute improved retention and significant savings from less turnover at their institutions to academic financial assistance programs. Hospitals aren't investing solely in student health care workers and new employees either; some are providing financial support for existing employees' continuing education so they can attain a higher skill level or advance in their careers.
Investing in education assistance through tuition assistance and loan repayment, or financial support to train in a new field or specialty, is important for recruiting for a range of health care careers, according to the American Hospital Association. One survey of nurses found that 65% would stay with their current organization if their employer would pay for their next degree or certification.
Investing in Skill Building and Retention
Once an organization has attracted clinicians, continued investments in the growth of their skills and maintenance of their competency in those skills can keep them invested and appreciated in their roles. By investing in clinical skills and trainings, providers such as nurses and physician's assistants are able to practice at the highest levels of their certification.
Organizations also need to look at how they can keep critical skills current for employees and support their desire for growing skills. Ongoing CPR training, for example, supports staff and providers across multiple roles in honing their lifesaving skills to help reduce deaths from sudden cardiac arrest.
A program such as the Resuscitation Quality Improvement® (RQI®) Program, coupling American Heart Association (AHA) resuscitation and education science guidelines with Laerdal Medical technology, provides convenient training that focuses on the mastery of CPR skills. Unlike conventional two-year CPR training, the program can be completed within the medical facility, and clinicians don't have to take multiple days off work for instructor-led training. Several research studies indicate the RQI Program can increase survival outcomes for cardiac arrest patients and programs provide the learner with an easily transferrable eCredential that verifies the learner has demonstrated competence in the gold standard of high-quality CPR mastery by the AHA. By implementing training programs that lead to a mastery of competence in high-quality skills, clinicians can feel proud to work for organizations that are at the forefront of science and education technology.
Investing in Clinicians
In addition to investments in job-based skills training and education, health care organizations have also needed to address self-care and mental health well-being to retain workers. In particular, nurses and doctors were experiencing high rates of burnout even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the added stress of the public health crisis pushed many more providers to the brink.
A mentorship and career coach program is another offering that may attract and retain more nurses. It not only addresses skills learning but also provides empathy and support during difficult times. Organizations can create programs connecting new nurses to mentors and coaches as an additional perk to recruit and retain talented caregivers.
While staffing shortages in health care are likely here to continue, people are still drawn to the field because they are dedicated to caring for patients. When it comes to recruiting and retaining talent across all roles, providing benefits that support their dedication is the best path.
From financial assistance and mental health support to ongoing training that improves competency, organizations that invest in their employees through a range of educational opportunities will reap the benefits of attracting and retaining providers who feel more fulfilled—and save more lives.