Blog | HR |
10 Min Read
May 12, 2023

4 Ways to Combat Healthcare Staffing Shortages & Improve Nurse Retention

by Morris Isaacson

It’s no secret that the healthcare staffing crisis is a continuing issue in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of healthcare professionals leaving their jobs is still increasing with the ongoing Great Resignation


The lack of nursing and caregiver retention is causing an immense strain on nursing home and home healthcare organizations in particular. Many struggle to fill positions and maintain the necessary staff levels to provide quality care.


But what if there was a solution that could help combat this crisis — one that would potentially not only reduce the number of healthcare professionals leaving their jobs but also help you create a successful employee retention program? Supporting mental health in the workplace is one such solution.


By taking steps to improve the mental well-being of your healthcare staff, you can create a healthier and more supportive workplace. Read on to explore why you should create a successful employee retention program that focuses on mental health and wellness and the positive impact it can have on your employees and your organization. 


First, consider the effects of nursing work on mental health.

The Effects of Nursing Work on Mental Health

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry and an invaluable asset whose importance can’t be overstated. They help to save and improve the lives of millions of people around the world. 


It goes without saying that they’re amazing and dedicated to their work. After all, it would be impossible to run your healthcare business without their devoted care.


However, like any demanding profession, nursing work can have a significant impact on mental health in several ways.

Chronic Stress


One of the primary effects of nursing work on mental health is stress.


According to a survey conducted by the American Nurses Foundation, over 34% of nurses rate themselves as not emotionally healthy, and 75% report that they feel stressed. Furthermore, 48% cite nursing work’s negative effects on their health and well-being as the reason they’re planning to leave their position in the next six months.


It’s understandable. Nurses are exposed to a wide range of stressors, including:

  • Long work hours
  • High-pressure situations
  • Heavy workloads to compensate for staff shortages
  • Difficult patients
  • Exposure to contagious infections
  • Strict governmental, state, and organizational rules and regulations


Even outside of work, they often have to handle caregiving for elderly or disabled family members along with child care. 


This chronic stress can eventually lead to symptoms like:

  • Physical pains like back pain, fatigue, headaches, and digestive problems
  • Emotional issues like anxiety, depression, irritability, and mood swings
  • Decreased job satisfaction as they feel overwhelmed, overworked, and underappreciated
  • Decreased quality of patient care as they feel rushed, distracted, and unable to focus on patient needs

Emotional Distress


Nursing work can also take a significant emotional toll on your patients. Nurses work with patients who are often in pain, scared, or facing the end of their lives. They may also neglect self-care as they focus on caring for patients in these conditions. 


This can be emotionally draining and lead to compassion fatigue — a phenomenon in which caregivers become desensitized to the suffering of others — which affects 16% to 39% of registered nurses.


Nursing work can also be stressful for families, as they may feel helpless, powerless, and resentful in the face of their loved ones’ emotional distresses and lack of compassion. This may cause more emotional distress for nurses as it affects their home and family life.

Nurse Burnout


The combination of chronic stress, emotional distress, and neglect of self-care can lead to a troubling condition known as nurse burnout — a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion resulting from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully addressed. 


Nurse burnout can lead to several negative outcomes, including:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of frustration
  • Withdrawal from patient care
  • Lower quality of nursing care
  • Worsened job performance


In fact, one survey conducted by the nursing staffing agency Incredible Health revealed that 44% of nurses cite burnout and a high-stress environment as a reason for their desire to quit their job.

So it’s imperative for you to address the effects of nursing work on your employees’ mental health.

4 Tips for Creating Effective Nurse Retention Programs

Of course, you can’t monitor the mental health of every single employee as a busy healthcare business owner. However, you can build nurse retention programs to demonstrate care for nurse well-being and increase their engagement and happiness.


Consider these possible methods for creating effective nurse retention programs.

1. Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits


Your nurses want to feel valued and fairly compensated for their hard work. Therefore, to retain your nursing staff, it’s important to offer salaries and benefits that are competitive with those of other healthcare organizations in your area. 


In addition to salaries, benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off can be valuable incentives for nurses to stay with your organization. 


Finally, you can make yourself stand out from the crowd and retain your current employees by adding unique offerings to your benefits packages, including:

  • Onsite health services
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Childcare reimbursement
  • Student loan repayment assistance
  • Flexible scheduling, such as a hybrid workplace

2. Provide Opportunities for Professional Development


Nurses want to feel like they’re growing in their careers and gaining new skills and knowledge, so providing opportunities for professional development can be a major incentive for them to stay with your organization.


There are a few different ways you can offer these opportunities to your staff, such as:

  • Creating a mentorship program where more experienced nurses can work with newer staff members to help them develop their skills
  • Offering leadership training programs for staff who are interested in advancing to management positions
  • Providing continuing education courses that are relevant to the specific needs and interests of your nursing staff


By providing these types of opportunities, you show your nursing staff that you’re invested in not only their current work, but also their professional growth and development. This can help build loyalty and commitment to your organization, which increases staff retention.

3. Foster a Positive Work Environment


When you create a positive work culture that fosters a sense of community and teamwork, you ensure that your healthcare staff feel heard, valued, cared for, and supported. This goes a long way toward increasing employee happiness, job satisfaction, and productivity. 


Building a positive work culture is undoubtedly one of the most difficult aspects of improving your organization. Consider several simple changes you can begin implementing at your practice:

4. Incorporate Technology into Your Work Processes


Finally, your nursing staff is busy. By integrating technology into your work processes, you are showing your employees that you value both their time and their overall happiness at work. For example, you can use comprehensive HR and payroll software to automate several repetitive and time-consuming aspects of employee management, including: 

  • Record keeping
  • Onboarding
  • Payroll
  • Timekeeping


Automation can free up your staff to focus on the aspect of the job that they enjoy most — providing high-quality care. This can help reduce burnout and frustration among your nursing staff, which in turn can lead to higher job satisfaction and retention rates. Automation can also help streamline workflows and reduce errors, which can improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Create a Successful Retention Program by Supporting Your Staff

The healthcare staffing crisis and the current nursing mental health crisis are both deeply entwined. The need for greater employee retention programs that prioritize mental health programming and support has never been greater. With proper strategy and implementation, you can turn the tide of this staffing crisis by creating a healthier, happier workplace environment where employees feel valued and supported.


By investing in employee wellness and mental health programming in your employee retention program, you can improve the quality of care you provide to patients while increasing job satisfaction, loyalty, and retention rates of your employees. This way, you can better ensure that you have the trained workforce necessary to meet the population’s current and future healthcare needs.


At empeon, we provide intuitive and innovative tools and systems so you can empower your people and meet your business goals.

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