HealthMay 02, 2022

How to retain your most experienced nurses

By: Katie Manoy, MSN, RN, CPNP
Nurses are experiencing numerous challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nursing shortage, and high staff turnover. The nursing work force is also composed of many experienced nurses above 50 years of age who are experiencing burnout.

Much needed new nurses are graduating and entering the workforce during an extremely challenging time. These novice nurses are in desperate need of strong orientation programs and mentorship to prepare them for their new role, ensure competency, and secure their future as nurses who remain in the field to provide direct patient care.

Combatting nursing burnout and fatigue

Experienced nurses are uniquely suited to help ease the transition of the novice nurse, but how can they be utilized and motivated in a way that facilitates this transition without overburdening them? Precepting and mentoring new staff, combined with heavy patient assignments and the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, can amplify feelings of fatigue, and accelerate burnout.

Developing innovative and individualized strategies to best utilize your experienced staff is crucial, so that their knowledge and skills can be used to benefit patients as well as novice nurses. If you lead a unit or a hospital with many experienced nurses who are leaving their jobs or dissatisfied with their current positions, consider implementing some of the following ideas:

Using innovative care models

Consider shortening shifts or placing experienced staff in roles that oversee the work of newer nurses, while doing less of the actual heavy lifting. In some situations, opportunities for remote work may even be possible. In many situations, novice nurses only need a bit of guidance to help them correctly prioritize care, sharpen their critical thinking, and develop excellent clinical judgement.

Offering flexible staffing

Consider rotation opportunities to other locations for a needed change of pace or to respond to staff interest. Offer part-time opportunities for nurses that no longer want full-time commitments, rather than losing their skills completely. Institute the role of a resource nurse in busy units where many novice nurses are practicing, particularly on off shifts or during times when patient acuity is high.

Developing unique compensation offerings

Allow staff allotted time to work on professional development from home or in an alternative setting, offer paid time off for birthdays, reduce on-call time when able, provide a meal once a week or more often, or implement a well-being bonus. Recognizing that all nurses need to embrace self-care and recharge periodically can go a long way towards boosting staff morale and well-being.

Establishing a formal mentor program and a shared governance committee

Empower and compensate experienced staff to create and facilitate a mentor program for new nurses. Formal mentor programs have been shown to provide many positive benefits for all participants. Likewise, encourage experienced staff to lead a shared governance committee to implement needed practice changes or standardize and area of care. Recognizing the knowledge and level of experience that experienced nurses bring to the table benefits both the experienced nurse and the unit.

Providing needed supplies and equipment

Dissatisfaction with the work environment can be a motivating reason for anyone to seek new employment. Units that are well stocked with easy to obtain materials tend to be more positive work environments with less frustrations voiced by direct patient care nurses. Efforts focused on reducing the amount of time that is wasted on meaningless tasks, like looking for missing supplies and equipment, will go a long way.

Communicate frequently with staff to ascertain the unique challenges they are facing and the factors they find motivating. Let them know that you value their experience and that it cannot be replaced. Encourage experienced staff to bring suggestions to the table and to take advantage of any new opportunities that may be developed.

Learn how Lippincott Solutions can support nursing staff with integrated solutions and ongoing professional development.

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Katie Manoy, MSN, RN, CPNP
Clinical Editor, Lippincott® Solutions, Wolters Kluwer Health
Katie is a nurse with 17 years of pediatric nursing experience, including 10 years of pediatric intensive care experience, and five years in nursing education. She develops and edits clinical content for Lippincott® Procedures.
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