If you’re the chief nursing officer (CNO), most likely the nursing shortage is foremost on your mind. If your organization has yet to endure the struggle of recruiting and retaining quality nurses, there’s a good possibility that it will soon. The combination of various factors could result in this age-old staffing problem and continue for years. The current nursing shortage faces a unique dimension with the baby-boomer nurses beginning to retire. This depletion is in addition to an increased demand for nurses from more patients having access to healthcare because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and an inadequate amount of nursing faculty to educate future nurses.
To draw nurse applicants, many organizations offer monetary bonuses and promote their vacant positions with creative incentives to attract nurses to apply. These enticements might incite nurses to initially accept the position, but then the challenge becomes ensuring that they stay. Otherwise you’re caught in a constant, costly cycle of staff turnover and ongoing recruitment. Becoming proactive and focusing on addressing little changes could help lead to long-term solutions to reduce staffing dilemmas.
A CNO usually has an endless list of daily tasks requiring their attention. On the rare occasions when pressing staffing issues seem to reach a plateau, it’s tempting to become comfortable with this status quo. Although often this might be the best time to identify what’s going well in your organization and evaluate areas that might benefit from improvement.
Being proactive can help you stay ahead of staffing issues by nurturing a positive workplace culture. This involves exercising an ability to be flexible and adapt to implementing what best maintains the critical balance of your staffing and organizational needs. A proactive leader continuously analyzes their organization for opportunities to improve before problems occur. Ongoing monitoring can help deter small problems from growing and forcing a delayed reaction.
Work from the Inside Out
Although sometimes it’s necessary to react to an unexpected crisis, always leading by reacting might appear as if you’re ignoring concerns, or being passive. This can breed discontent or negativity among your staff. If you don’t make changes until it’s unavoidable, or you fail to analyze the big picture and anticipate issues, small problems could fester and grow. Staff can often adjust more easily to minor changes. They might be more acceptable if you permit time to incorporate staff input. This way the change can often be presented as more of an opportunity.
Ensure that you don’t focus all your time on recruiting new staff and end up neglecting your current employees. The tables have turned from when nurses competed for positions, now organizations must compete for nurses. Employment opportunities are vast and there simply aren’t enough nurses to fill the demand. This permits nurses to choose positions that best meet their needs. If they determine that the job isn’t what they expected, they often don’t feel committed enough to the organization to feel obligated to stay.
Identify Potential Issues
Make time to engage with your staff, be visible and welcome opportunities to learn their needs. This can help to ensure they know they’re valued and appreciated. Becoming more visible to your employees can help you gain a committed workforce, but clear communication can help to sustain this. Incorporate methods to gain input from your staff on important issues that could hinder their job satisfaction. If they’re feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated, it’s unlikely that the perception they portray about working for your organization will draw job seekers, or that your staff will stay.
As a CNO, you’re aware of the global issues that can lead to dissatisfaction and turnover such as:
- Generational differences with staff
- Excessive overtime
- Inadequate staffing
- Staff turnover
- Scheduling satisfaction
- Dissatisfaction with wage or benefit package
- Adequate time for patient care
- Nurse bullying
- Fear of workplace violence
- A satisfactory work and life balance
- Opportunities for advancement
Offering the opportunity for staff to share could reveal other issues you were unaware of and help you pinpoint key areas that need addressed in your organization. This can allow your staff to realize that you’re in tune to what they need to get the job done well. Communicate how you’re working to correct issues or explain the rationale behind decisions that might not meet their satisfaction.
Stay Ahead of Staffing Issues
Employees are key to helping shape the culture of your organization. As a leader, you can help direct that to meet your vision through growth and maintenance of your staff’s trust and respect. Ensure your staff realize you are aware of, and value, their needs through clear communication and actions. Your staff paint the reality of working for your organization. Help ensure it’s the image you want to display. This can help you to maintain your current staff and draw future nurses to your organization.