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Nursing turnover estimated to be 33% in the first three years

Posted By Tyler Grote, Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The nationwide nursing shortage has been big news for years. The American Nursing Association (ANA) reported that the U.S. needs 1.1 million new nurses in its pipeline by 2022 to meet the country’s demand. But an overall nursing shortage isn’t the only problem that healthcare providers are contending with – across the country, hospitals and other facilities are dealing with high turnover and poor retention. In fact, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, nearly 20 percent of nurses leave the profession entirely during their first year; another one in three is gone within two years. Considering the time and money that nurses invest in their education and training, it’s alarming that such high numbers of new professionals are willing to throw in the towel so soon.

The obvious answer to why attrition rates have reached such great heights is that nurses just aren’t happy with their jobs. Nursing is a physically, mentally and emotionally taxing profession at its core – and, these days, a nursing shortage has caused many professionals to work longer hours and take on the burden of tasks outside their typical scope of responsibilities. The inability to keep nurses happy can be a costly mistake for many healthcare providers; the Journal of Nursing Administration estimates that it costs roughly $82,000 to replace each nurse. Given high turnover rates, this can equate to an annual cost of a whopping $4.4 million each year for a 300-bed hospital. It can also have a negative effect on patient satisfaction – recent studies have found that there’s a strong correlation between how happy nurses are with their jobs and the quality of care. 

Considering the cost of nursing turnover and dissatisfaction for healthcare facilities, it’s baffling that more hospitals haven’t found effective solutions to improve nurse retention. This isn’t a problem with a quick fix – and it will certainly require an investment in time and resources. While meeting adequate staffing levels is certainly one way to ease some of the stress and pressure that floor nurses feel, research has shown that there are also small tweaks that employers can make. According to Health Affairs, many nurses feel a lack of independence in their roles and schedules; allowing for a bit more self-governance is one way to increase satisfaction and empower professionals. Additionally, exercising a bit more empathy and compassion toward the struggle to balance personal and professional lives can go a long way. Integrating quality-of-life initiatives – like paid gym memberships, on-site childcare and being flexible with schedule planning – can help reduce the stress that many nurses feel when it comes to balance and self-care.

Regardless of what short- and long-term solutions that facilities choose to execute, rates of attrition reaching 33 percent simply can’t be ignored. It’s time to take action to permanently stop the bleeding, rather than pretend like the dam isn’t about to blow wide open.

Tags:  nurse turnover  nursing shortage 

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