Eight Ways to Increase Nurse Loyalty and Retention

Eight Ways to Increase Nurse Loyalty and Retention

Co-written by Elizabeth Cates, M.A.

With the current nursing shortage, nurses have a lot more choices of where they’re going to work and how long they’re going to stay. As baby boomers retire and younger generations of nurses enter the workforce, gone are the days where a nurse would start a career and then four decades later retire from the same position. With the rising demand for nurses in the coming years, it is crucial to create a welcoming and appreciative atmosphere.

Today, healthcare workers are on the move, and to encourage them to stay in one place, hospitals and nurse management are challenged to think of new and innovative ideas for creating loyalty and retention. In addition, each healthcare worker also has the responsibility of creating a healthy atmosphere in which to work, one where their co-workers will want to stay for the long haul.

As you are seeking to increase loyalty and retention, here are some things to keep both you and your colleagues motivated:

Listen. One of the quickest ways to increase loyalty and retention is to listen to your colleagues. People who feel heard are more likely to stay than those who believe their thoughts, ideas and feelings don’t matter. Listening also works to build self-esteem, self-confidence and self-efficacy, a person’s belief that he/she can achieve certain tasks.

The last thing someone wants to hear when they bring an idea forward is: “Oh, what do you know? You are new here. You haven’t had the experience that I’ve had. You haven’t walked in my shoes. I am in charge here!” While these statements may be true, they serve to create walls, not bridges. Words like these can have a long-term, damaging effect on even the most seasoned professional, making them want to run for the door.

Acknowledge Ideas. Although every idea and suggestion cannot be acted upon nor all requests granted, acknowledging a person’s input can go a long way toward making him or her feel like an integral part of the team. Not only can you acknowledge the idea, you can also acknowledge the thought behind the idea, their unique perspective or skill set in formulating the request. All of these will help to create a sense of belonging.

Take for example, Sally, a new CNA, who during a routine vitals check discovered a patient had been receiving blood pressure medication for several days, even though the patient had no prior history of high blood pressure. After talking with the patient, Sally determined that the blood pressure cuff being used was too small, which caused the patient’s vital signs to be drastically altered. Immediately she took this information to management and adjustments were made that quite possibly saved the patient’s life. Administration took notice of Sally’s quick problem-solving and analytical skills and rewarded her publicly for being a diligent patient advocate. More importantly, her co-workers gave her both respect and praise for her ability to take command in an emergency situation.

Be A Motivator. Find out what motivates your colleagues. This will be different for each person. Some are motivated by praise, while others are motivated by power and prestige. Still others are energized through more intrinsic factors, such as a sense of pride, meaning and value. The days of cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all motivation is over. To actively engage your co-workers, you need to find out what works for each person. Don’t treat your co-workers the way YOU want to be treated, treat them the way THEY want to be treated. How do you find out what motivates them? Ask them!

Be Aware Of Information Overload. Be careful that YOU are not the cause of your colleague’s demise by over-sharing. Sometimes you can cause undue stress by getting too in depth about challenging meetings, hospital politics, and your latest interactions with difficult people. This doesn’t mean you can’t share ANY of your personal life with your co-workers, but try to keep the negative to a minimum. After all, most people have enough on their plate without keeping up with your stresses.

A good rule of thumb is to try and keep conversations as positive and productive as possible. The latest research suggests that for every negative comment we make, we should say at least three positive statements. By keeping conversations focused on what you can do, what you are willing to do, and what you have done, you can decrease a colleagues’ stress level.

Model The Behavior You Want. Be aware, from the time you arrive for your shift to the time you leave, you are visible to others. Your goal is to be as “positively visible” as possible. Become a model for the behavior you want to see in others. Remember that your colleagues often take their behavioral cues from you. If you greet them with a welcoming, “Good Morning,” they are likely to do the same. If you maintain a professional atmosphere, you’ll notice that they will follow suit. Yet if you call them out on their behavior without adjusting your own bad habits, they will see you as hypocritical and insincere.

Focus On Strengths Rather Than Weaknesses. There has been a trend for years to harp on weaknesses rather than develop strengths. If you look at most performance appraisal forms, you will first find an area for improvement. While continuous improvement is important, we now know that there are individuals who will excel at certain tasks. By working cooperatively with others, you can utilize the strengths of each individual.

For additional information, check out Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, Ph.D. or take the Strengths Finder profile at: http://www.strengthsfinder.com.

Remove Obstacles. Another great way to increase loyalty and retention is to work diligently to remove roadblocks so people can be as productive as possible. By immediately addressing issues involving personal safety, sexual harassment, workplace violence and discrimination, you will help create an environment where your colleagues feel comfortable coming to work.

Supportive Care. While you can’t completely change your environment, you can promote a sense of support and care among your fellow nurses to help them cope with the variety of difficult situations they face. By paying attention to your words and how you communicate, both verbally and nonverbally, you can create a healthy culture of communications.

By applying these simple strategies you can dramatically increase your odds of receiving the answer, “I’ll stay,” when others are deciding, “Should I stay or should I go now?”



Elizabeth Cates, M.A., is an Organization Development Specialist in Houston who has worked with a variety of companies in the greater Houston Metropolitan area in a number of industries, including healthcare, education, government, and transportation. Elizabeth specializes in communications coaching, competency development, training facilitation, and leadership/management development. For more information on programs or services please call 832-465-7196 or email at elizabeth.cates@att.net


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