With the nation’s nursing workforce aging and many nurses approaching retirement just as the population ages, creating a greater demand for hospital care, retaining experienced nurses will be critical in coming years. Hospitals, medical centers and other health care organizations can keep more veteran nurses at patient bedsides by implementing a variety of employee-retention strategies identified in a new study supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
Veteran nurses provide quick and accurate assessments of patient health and well-being, maintain institutional memory, mentor less experienced staff, and more. Wisdom at Work: Retaining Experienced Nurses is comprised of research projects conducted in 2007 and 2008 to explore the impact of interventions aimed at retaining experienced nurses in hospitals. It is a follow-up to the groundbreaking white paper, Wisdom at Work: The Importance of the Older and Experienced Nurses in the Workplace, commissioned by RWJF in 2006. It is presented here in two parts, an evaluation report of 13 studies, and seven case studies of top performing companies. The Lewin Group, Inc. served as the National Coordinating Center for this initiative.
Wisdom at Work: Retaining Experienced Nurses finds that a number of health care organizations lowered turnover rates among senior nurses by making a concerted effort to improve nurse morale and productivity. Successful strategies included innovative approaches to staffing; employee health and wellness programs; and training and development opportunities for senior nurses. Ergonomic initiatives, such as teams and equipment to help nurses lift patients and other heavy items, did not contribute to an overall drop in turnover among senior nurses, but improved morale and cut expenses associated with work-related injuries, the study finds.
The “Wisdom at Work” in-depth case studies of seven recognized top-performing companies identified among the reasons for their successes: a sustained commitment on the part of company leaders to retain older workers; corporate cultures that value the wisdom and experience of older employees; on-going data collection and analysis to identify and address concerns of senior employees; opportunities for older employees to transfer to less demanding roles; compensation packages that reward longevity; and benefits catering to older employees such as phased retirement options, flexible work arrangements and opportunities to receive in-home care for parents and spouses.