Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Launches New Program Aimed at Retaining Experienced Nurses in Hospitals

Grants awarded for 13 research projects to advance learning about what works to retain experienced nurses in hospitals.

    • January 9, 2007

With the United States facing a growing shortage of hospital nurses, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced a new program which will begin to build an evidence base for what works to help hospitals hold onto experienced, qualified nurses.

The program, Wisdom at Work: Retaining Experienced Nurses provides grants of approximately $75,000 each to 13 hospitals and health systems around the country, for an overall investment of about $975,000. These 18-month projects will evaluate the impact and outcomes of existing tactics aimed at retaining experienced nurses in hospitals. The Lewin Group, Inc. will provide technical support and data collection and analysis.

"Nursing is at the heart of patient care," said Nancy Fishman of RWJF. "These projects will expand our understanding of several pressing issues including how older, experienced nurses can work differently to continue practicing and what hospitals can do to encourage experienced nurses to stay."

The following 13 grantees have been selected:

  • Florida Health Science Center, Inc., in Tampa, Fla., will explore the impact of a lift team on the recruitment and retention of experienced nurses;
  • Centra Health, Inc., in Lynchburg, Va., will assess the use of closed staffing as a nursing retention strategy;
  • University of Rochester School of Nursing, Rochester, N.Y., will implement a minimum lift program to reduce lost staff time from patient-related injuries;
  • Greenville Hospital Systems, Greenville, S.C., will address retention of experienced nurses while promoting safe patient handling;
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn., will evaluate a safe handling program to reduce injury among nurses;
  • Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, Inc., Milwaukee, Wis., will use virtual intensive care units to retain nurses;
  • Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, in Cooperstown, N.Y., will assess the use of a specialized admission role to ease patient gridlock and help retain nurses;
  • Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation, Inc., Greenville, N.C., will attempt to improve the retention rate of experienced nurses by renewing and reframing their nursing practice;
  • Edward Foundation, in Naperville, Ill., will evaluate a wellness-at-work program to help retain experienced nurses;
  • Poudre Valley Health System Foundation, Fort Collins, Colo., will assess the impact of the base staffing model on retention of experienced nurses;
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, Calif., will work to reduce the physical burden of nursing practice;
  • St. Joseph's Hospital, Atlanta, Ga., will attempt to decrease the number of patient movement-related injuries that are prevalent among nurses; and
  • Rush Copley Foundation, Aurora, Ill., will give experienced nurses more control over patient flow, discharge and admission.

According to the most recent national nursing workforce survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average age for registered nurses in this country is nearly 47 years. Forty-six percent of practicing nurses over age 50 work in hospitals. These demographics pose serious health care implications for our nation—especially in light of projections that more than 650,000 new jobs in nursing will be created over the next decade. Yet, according to Linda Aiken, the Claire M. Fagin Leadership Professor in Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, an estimated 450,000 nurses will have retired during that time.

A white paper commissioned by the Foundation called "Wisdom at Work: The Importance of the Older and Experienced Nurse in the Workplace," identifies a number of promising strategies for nurse retention, including flexible work hours, increased benefits, new professional roles, better-designed hospital equipment and buildings and an atmosphere of respect. (Access the report.)

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with diverse groups of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.