REGAINING OUR POTENTIAL
September 3, 2002The nursing shortage is expected to reach one
million by 2010 and 1.5 million by 2020. In the current healthcare industry
environment - with its staff shortages, higher patient volumes and dwindling
profit margins - the healthcare industry must understand that workforce
retention is a major factor in an organization's success.
cost of replacing a nurse is estimated to be anywhere from $10,000 to
$145,000, depending on the type of job, level of experience and clinical
skills required," Steven M. Barney, FACHE, senior vice president
- Human Resources, SSM Health Care, St. Louis, MO writes. At a time when
turnover in healthcare averages 20 percent, only about half of all U.S.
hospitals have active employee retention programs. Of those retention
programs, only 10 percent are effective.
of employees should be top of mind in healthcare organizations, according
to Barney. Healthcare executives must recognize the significant contributions
that nurses, radiology, pharmacy lab technicians and other healthcare
professional make to quality patient care and patient safety. Barney highlighted
five steps in the retention process:
- Hire the
right people. Finding the qualified person with the right amount of experience
is difficult when so few people apply for a position. To ensure a good
selection of applicants for every position, internal recruitment efforts
must be as aggressive as the external efforts of recruitment firms.
- Develop a welcome plan. Human resources leaders know that the first
year for any employee is critical. In fact, one-third of nurse turnovers
occur during the first year of employment. Managers should be aware of
this phenomenon and arrange for many avenues of personal contact with
- Measure turnover. If it is unclear how effectively an organization
is in retaining employees, measure turnover. First, identify the worst
performing units and the reasons employees left those units. Second, once
the reasons have been identified, assign accountability for reducing turnover
to the unit managers.
- Hold medical staff members accountable for their role in turnover.
Work to involve managers in employee-retention initiatives by making them
accountable for the turnover on their units. The loss of a piece of equipment
valued at $30,000 would certainly be taken seriously and managers would
be held accountable, likewise the loss of an employee should be taken
- Set goals, but be realistic. If the turnover rate in the organization
is around 20 percent, setting a goal to decrease the rate to 10 percent
next year may be overly optimistic.
An earlier article appearing in the July/August 2001 issue of Healthcare
Executive, "A Model Workplace: Creating an Effective Nursing
Environment," outlined several strategies currently in place across
the country to cope with the supply and demand for nursing services. For
more information about these strategies or for a copy of the article,
please contact Edelman at (312) 240-3370.
Retaining Our Workforce, Regaining Our Potential. Journal of Healthcare
Management, 2002;47(5):291-294; available upon request)
information, contact Edelman, on behalf of the American College of Healthcare
Executives, at (312) 240-3370.
contact Steven M. Barney, FACHE, call SSM Health Care's Press Office at