Improve Nursing Engagement, Improve Retention

bigstock-portrait-of-a-nurse-in-front-o-54193787-01Through your hard work and team approach, you have built a strong nursing team. Now, just sit back and enjoy life because your work is done. Well, you can take this approach and gamble with the long term results, or you can work even harder building a retention plan and a culture that supports staff satisfaction.

I tend to think of the Magnet recognized organizations I have worked over the past 15 years. Many of them have similarities in terms of culture, systems, processes and nursing support. Let me help you understand what this looks like in terms of the clinical nurse working at the bedside in a busy medical unit. Now picture this, a cold, damp morning in a busy rural hospital. You walk onto the unit at 6:30 in the morning. You head over to the nursing station, grab your assignment and begin looking around for who you will receive the patient report from. It is unclear who has what patients since the charge nurse, involved in her own assignment, struggled to complete this task on time. The nurse decides to just research her patients until the night shift nurses are found. This nurse begins researching, looking up labs, history, diagnosis and progress reports. As she spends the next twenty minutes doing this, the charge nurse informs her that her whole assignment has changed.

This is a reality that many clinical nurses face on many units around the country. The systems in place do not support the work, time and energy the staff intend to offer as soon as they enter the unit.
This lack of understanding, relative to how a unit works and operates, places the staff at risk for frustration, hopelessness, feeling behind before they start and just overall dissatisfaction. Now, let’s take a look at what a great unit looks like.

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As you enter the front doors of the small community hospital, the office staff meet you with a nice greeting. Just a friendly hello or good morning is a great way to start your day. You walk onto your unit and look up at the large television monitor that shows your picture, what phone number you will have for the day, your patient assignment and the support staff working with you. The unit secretary hands you four papers, each containing printed information about each of your patients in real time from the electronic medical record (EMR). Because the night clinical coordinator based assignments from continuity and acuity, the nurse will receive reports from one or two off-going nurses. The nurses meet at the nursing station and quickly head to the patients’ rooms to meet them.

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bigstock-multi-ethnic-business-team-at-26890205-2This is just a quick glimpse of how systems can make or break the day, evening or night of the clinical nurse. As the nurse starts the day and is able to feel she knows the patients and can prepare, the level of engagement is high. The nurse manager rounds on the unit and offers greetings and an ear for anything that did not go as smooth as intended.

Communication is high, problems are looked at as opportunities and staff have a voice in their own practice. Councils meet and decide on practice changes.

Nurse or not, like any job, starting in a chaotic and unorganized way places you in a position to quickly hate your job. Nurse managers and directors are tasked with creating a culture that supports, motivates, encourages and promotes nursing ideas, theories and evidence- based practice.

A great organization will support a positive culture and allow for opportunities. This my friends is the utopia of healthcare facilities!

John Green

John Green, RN, MSN is a Masters-prepared, registered nurse who has worked in healthcare for 20 years. He currently works as a nurse manager for a 46-bed medical unit in upstate New York. Read More

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