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18 Nurse Engagement Ideas for Better Recruitment & Retention

The Mega List of Nurse Engagement Ideas CNOs can Use for Better Recruitment and Retention

It’s a simple question with complex answers: Why do nurses leave? As a CNO, you strive to offer your clinicians great benefits, shared governance, nurse self-scheduling and many other perks that make your hospital a great place to forge a career. Yet, too often, nurses still take the revolving door out of your organization and into another. How can you stop it from happening?

As we’ve written before, nurse engagement is one powerful tool to improve retention rates. Engagement leads to empowerment, which many studies have linked to increased job satisfaction, less burnout and greater “intention to stay” among nurses.

To increase nurse engagement, try these 18 creative strategies to get nurses so excited about working for your hospital that they never want to leave.

1. Develop a formal nurse engagement strategy

Most organizations with successful nurse engagement programs develop a written strategy, complete with measurement tools and reporting of metrics. Involve nurses at all levels in this planning, measurement and reporting so they feel empowered to shape the program in ways that benefit them. Continually refine the program based on data and feedback about what works and what doesn’t.

2. Give nurses control of their own schedules

Offering self-scheduling allows nurses to achieve better work-life balance. And virtually all nurses appreciate having a smartphone app that allows them to schedule, request PTO or swap shifts on-the-fly.

3. Solicit constant feedback

Make it easy for nurses to share ideas, concerns and complaints – anonymously or otherwise. Set up feedback boxes where they can drop cards, and maintain an open-door policy at all levels of nurse management so your nurses feel heard and empowered to help guide the organization.

4. Hold interdepartmental social events

A PACU nurse might chat frequently by phone with a nurse on a med-surg floor when transferring a patient upstairs, but those nurses might never feel like part of the same team because they’ve never met in person. You can solidify those bonds across departments by holding regular social events to welcome new staff members, celebrate teams and more. To make these events more meaningful, invite just two or three departments at a time and encourage everyone to get to know each other better.

5. Give nurse managers more time for engagement

Building a culture of performance starts with one simple act: giving nurses constant feedback. These coaching conversations should happen every day, during a brief touch-base on the floor or even in the hallway. But nurse managers frequently get buried under administrative tasks that leave them no time for chatting with staff. Offering nurse self-scheduling can free up a tremendous amount of nurse manager time – precious minutes to hold those conversations that lead to better nurse retention.

“We recently ran a report on how customers use ShiftWizard, and of the five million shifts that have been scheduled with the software, 80 percent of them were self-scheduled,” said Shane Parker, RN, founder and Chief Nursing Officer at ShiftWizard. “As a manager, think about getting back 80 percent of the hours you have always spent on scheduling. How much coaching could you accomplish with those ‘found’ minutes?”

6. Reward engagement as well as productivity

Many hospitals reward nurse productivity by offering cash incentives for things like taking an undesirable shift. But you can foster greater nurse engagement by also incentivizing activities like participating in shared governance, donating blood, attending special events and other actions. Best of all, you don’t need to shell out a lot of cash to fund a rewards program. Learn how Swedish Covenant Health saved $1.4 million in agency nurse costs by offering a non-monetary points and reward system.

7. Promote nurse health and wellness

Think beyond offering a health club membership to your nurses and focus on how you can promote engagement with offerings like staff-only spin classes scheduled in partnership with a local gym, on-site massage days and other wellness perks.

8. Incorporate engagement into your on-boarding process

Start engaging new nurses from day one by using the on-boarding process to raise awareness of your program and foster immediate interaction. Don’t merely outline the engagement opportunities your hospital offers, but encourage every new nurse to choose at least one activity they can dive into immediately.

9. Expand your continuing education programs

Many hospitals offer tuition reimbursement or pay for nurses’ CEUs, but you can engage nurses better by developing in-house education programs that help your nurses advance their careers.  Work with the human resources department to create classes that prepare nurses for managerial duties, or design extended preceptorships for nurses who seek to move from one department to another. These types of programs foster a high degree of engagement and lead to improved nurse retention.

10. Host regular off-site classes and meetings

One British hospital reduced its emergency department nurse turnover rate from 65% to 14% in a year by employing strategies that included hosting regular off-site meetings for training and shared governance.

11. Improve your hospital’s physical environment

Over the past several years, hospitals have invested heavily in remodeling rooms to improve the patient experience. What about your staff areas? Your nurses deserve to work in a pleasant environment, too. Survey your existing break rooms and other staff-only areas to see which ones need sprucing up, then enlist nurses to help redesign them.

12. Help every nurse find the position that fits best

Every person likes to shine on the job, and that usually happens when you’re doing a job you consider a “perfect fit.” Help your nurses find the position that fits them best by evaluating various clinical milieu to develop a list of traits required to excel in that job. Communicate these traits in job announcements so nurses can self-evaluate whether they are well-suited to that particular position. Nurses who excel tend to be more engaged and less likely to leave their job.

13. Create department-specific mission statements

Millennial nurses, in particular, often choose employers whose mission closely matches their own ideals. And when organizational and employee missions align, engagement usually ensues. You can go beyond the over-arching corporate mission statement to encourage managers and nurses to develop department-specific mission statements that communicate the unit’s goals and values, which in turn leads to better engagement as everyone works toward a singular objective.

14. Instantly acknowledge nurse achievements

Don’t wait for the annual holiday party to acknowledge nurses who’ve done an exceptional job. Positive feedback packs the most wallop when it’s delivered instantly. You can promote this sort of engagement by encouraging nurses and managers to frequently call out team members who do a great job. They can use the mass-texting feature of ShiftWizard to send an instant acknowledgement to the whole team – or the entire workforce.

15. Sponsor family activities

In addition to sponsoring organizations like youth sports teams, consider partnering with community groups to offer family activities like a day at the zoo, an evening of painting or pottery-making or a weekend at the water park. Nurses will appreciate your recognition and inclusion of their spouses and children as part of their “work family.”

16. Host a motivational speaker

Many nurses can’t afford to attend relevant conferences, and they subsequently miss out on hearing the many inspiring and engaging speakers at those events. But you can bring the speakers directly to your facility. Once or twice a year, invite a nurse who spoke at a prominent conference to deliver her message to your staff. Your nurses will come away feeling energized and appreciated.

17. Promote vertical engagement by visiting departments frequently

Nurses who feel more connected to top management likely feel more engaged and empowered on the job. As the CNO, you definitely need to have an open-door policy – but better yet is taking your door on the road, so to speak. Many nurses will never visit your office, so you should visit every department as often as possible. Simply showing up for a few minutes to ask how things are going will go a long way toward fostering “vertical” engagement up the management chain.

18. Encourage floating for personal and professional enrichment

Instead of incentivizing floating solely to reward nurse behavior that benefits the organization, encourage nurses to float to counter boredom and learn new clinical skills that can help them advance their careers within the organization. Acknowledging and addressing burnout factors like boredom allows you to more fully engage (or re-engage) nurses who might otherwise leave.

Improving nurse retention rates doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take a lot of time. By investing up-front to develop a formal, written plan – and then measuring and analyzing the results – you can foster a culture of nursing engagement and empowerment that reduces your retention expenses and leads to a happier work environment.


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