December 18, 2015

5 Tips for Retaining Your Best Nurses


Being a nurse is not easy. The stress levels in this profession are through the roof. The hours are long and you are in constant contact with people who are sick and need your help to get better. There’s a lot of pressure involved in nursing and it seemingly never gets easier.

You need to be committed to the job in every way, physically and mentally. The profession is so grueling, in fact, that according to a survey performed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one in five nurses will leave the profession within their first year on the job.

That’s why managers in the nursing industry, and the healthcare industry in general, have a very difficult job. Nurses are hard to come by as is, but finding and retaining great nurses is an even harder task.

How can you make sure that your best nurses want to stay with you? How do you keep the leaders of your nursing staff happy, fulfilled and excited about coming to work every day?

It’s difficult, no doubt, but not impossible.

Getting Your Culture Right

Developing a caring and positive culture for your nursing staff is probably the most important aspect of keeping them happy. To do this, you need to know what the issues are that matter most to nurses. Generally, nurses want to work at a medical institution that stresses positivity, safety for nurses and patients, open communication and commitment to great service.

It’s not only important to nurture these cornerstones of your culture once they have been agreed upon. You need to hire nurses with these values in mind. The reason for this is the simple fact that these values are not going to be able to truly resonate with your staff if they are coming exclusively from the management.

Your best nurses, all of which should believe strongly in these values, need to be instilling them into the rest of the staff every day. Providing your best nurses with a culture that suits them well and allowing them to become promoters of this positive culture gives them no reason to want to leave.

Restricting Overtime

Making sure that your nurses are working less overtime than usual is actually easier said than done. Overtime is something that simply comes with the territory in this profession. However, studies have shown that nurses who work less overtime enjoy a higher level of workplace satisfaction.

A recent survey by the National Center for Biotechnology Information claims that nurses who work shifts that are longer than 12 hours are more likely to leave their jobs and nurses who work more than 40 hours a week are more prone to both turnover and job dissatisfaction.

While you probably won’t be able to completely put an end to nurses working overtime, you can surely do a better job of regulating it. It’s sometimes very easy to simply let your best nurses take a lot of overtime, simply because it’s tempting to always have your best people out there helping patients. But overworking your best nurses could easily lead to burning them out and losing them.

It’s a much better practice to distribute shifts as equally as possible so that your best nurses don’t feel overworked or taken advantage of at any moment. Make overtime the exception, not the rule.

Empowering Your Staff

If you want to keep your best nurses, you are going to have to start giving them more independence. This process starts with allowing them to be part of the process when it comes to creating work schedules. Many nurses are unhappy about the lack of say they have when it comes to putting together the work schedule.

One of the best ways to end this dissatisfaction is to allow your nurses to set up their own availability and then create work shifts based on their preferences. Not only should you be allowing all of your nurses to have their voices heard about their availability preferences, but you should also give more control to your head nurses when it comes to scheduling in general.

Your best nurses should be able to own the scheduling process for their teams. This is a good idea for two main reasons: firstly, they know the needs and abilities of their teams better than managers do, and secondly, giving them more control in general will lead to greater job satisfaction. Your best nurses will not only never shy away from added responsibility, they’ll most likely welcome it. Showing them that you trust them with scheduling their teams can go a long way when it comes to job satisfaction and loyalty.

Listening to and Implementing Recommendations

Hospitals and nursing centers that listen to their nurses’ suggestions tend to have the happiest nurses and the best staff. Nurses know better than anyone what your medical institution needs to improve.

Ask for their input regularly through surveys and implement some of their recommendations. Make sure that your nurses have everything they need to work effectively, especially when it comes to equipment and supplies.

The medical facilities with the best retention rates address the concerns of their nurses and even allow the nursing staff to not only recommend, but also collaborate in the processes of putting together and implementing plans according to what the nursing staff needs in order to perform their everyday tasks at a higher level.

Facilitating Leadership

Your best nurses want to advance their careers. As a manager, you should be facilitating these needs. It’s a good idea to have some type of a career development program in place that can help your best nurses meet their career goals without having to leave your establishment.

These types of programs also help to breed better relationships between staff and management. When nurses see that the management values them and wants to see them stay and fulfill their career goals within the same facility, they will be more likely to stay.

Residency programs can also go a long way in improving retention. Having a good residency program enables you to not only develop and keep your best nursing students, it also gives the perceptors more incentive to stay. If the experienced nurses see that the novice nurses are satisfied enough to stay within them after they have finished their studies, they too will have a greater sense of satisfaction as mentors.


Retaining your best nurses is important for the obvious reason of maintaining the quality of the care that you are offering to your patients. It’s also important for financial reasons.

According to the Journal of Nursing Administration, when taking in all of the costs (training, orientations, recruiting, advertising, decreased productivity, etc.), you’ll spend an average of $82,000 to replace a single nurse.

That figure alone should give managers an idea of why retaining your best employees in this industry is absolutely crucial.