As today’s workforce ages, along with the overall population, the U.S. will need 3.6 million new nurses by 2026. That — plus high turnover due to burnout, poor work-life balance, overstaffing and abusive work environments — has made the nursing shortage a salient problem facing our healthcare system.
Try as administrators and human resources reps might, the most qualified individuals to address these challenges might be nurses themselves, according to a recent report from Daily Nurse. The associate chief of nurse mental health at VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin, Natalie Hackbarth MSN, RN, shared with the publication how her facility has reduced nurse turnover by 52 percent.
The core of the program is ongoing communication between managers and staff, she explained. Employees talk with team leaders both 30 and 90 days after starting a new job, and after they get adjusted, annually. Interviews focus on:
- What, if anything, would you change about your job?
- What things would you like to learn more about or what experiences would you like to acquire?
- What things demoralize you and make you long for the weekend?
According to Hackbarth, the success of the program, called the Nursing Stay Interview process, comes from how it encourages top leaders to fix problems that would otherwise push staffers to quit. For example, Hackbarth said that her hospital used to require nurses to stay in the same unit for at least a year. Under this new process, however, employees talk openly with their bosses about which teams they want to work on, and often they switch, helping them feel energized and inspired.
In addition, interviewees have consistently received feedback that “floating” between units was a source of stress for new employees. As a result, the hospital instituted a structure of pods — mental health, acute and long-term care — and tries as much as possible to ask nurses to work only within their pods. Leaders also revised the orientation program’s curriculum.
Another key component? Letting staff know that their opinions are driving the changes.
The program has been so successful that Hackbarth’s facility has expanded it to LPNs, CNAs, social workers, psychologists, peer support specialists and more. VA hospitals in Texas and Oklamhoma are also trying out the Nursing Stay Interview process.
If Hackbarth’s work is any indication, taking the advice of nurses could be the secret ingredient to reducing the nursing shortage.