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Combat nursing turnover with self-scheduling model

September 28, 2023
September 28, 2023

Nurse turnover rates have been rising at an alarming pace over the past few years and that has prompted many hospitals to devise new strategies for nurse retention.

One of the most effective strategies to mitigate high nurse turnover is implementing a self-scheduling system for the nursing staff. Under this model, nurses can view the team’s schedule in real-time and either pick up or swap shifts with their coworkers as needed. This increased ownership over work can lead to lower rates of burnout and better job satisfaction, thereby reducing turnover.

Managing nurse turnover is about creating a better work environment that provides nurses with adequate work life balance while also protecting the quality of patient care. Nurses are leaving their jobs because they feel overworked, burnt out and dissatisfied, and as a result, thousands of positions across the country remain unfilled.

To boost nurse retention, hospital leaders must explore new workplace arrangements to meet the needs of these essential healthcare workers. Nurses have a desire for greater flexibility and autonomy in their professional lives. Self-scheduling allows them to choose shifts that best suit their schedule and helps them avoid working too many hours. With a self-scheduling system in place, there is also a greater opportunity for nurse management to create a supportive work environment where nurses feel that their health and well-being is a priority. Given these reasons, self-scheduling is a nurse retention strategy that healthcare organizations need to consider.


Understanding the nursing shortage

As facilities prepare to integrate new solutions to reduce high nurse turnover, it is important for hospital leadership and nurse management to first understand how things reached this point.

It is also necessary to recognize that the nursing shortage existed long before COVID-19. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania validated this with data they published in the Journal of Nursing Regulation in April 2022. The team analyzed survey data they collected from 33,462 registered nurses (RNs) in New York and Illinois between December 2019 and February 2020. Their findings revealed that during that period more than 40% of RNs reported high burnout and one in five planned to leave their employer within one year. Furthermore, more than half (56%) of RNs reported not having enough staff to get their work done and 31% of hospital RNs gave their hospital an unfavorable patient safety rating. This evidence begins to shed light on some of the reasons for high nurse turnover rates.

Meanwhile, a study published post-pandemic in 2023 in JAMA revealed that nearly half of all nurses (47%) reported burnout in 2021. The same report indicated that 26% of nurses rated their hospitals unfavorably on patient safety and 34% reported having a poor work environment.


Increase nurse retention by improving the work environment

Nursing staff turnover is a complex issue with several contributing factors. In March 2022, the American Nurses Foundation and the American Nurses Association released findings from a survey in which they found that 52% of nurses were considering leaving their current position due primarily to insufficient staffing, work negatively affecting their health and well-being, and the inability to deliver quality care.

A separate survey conducted in January 2023 by AMN Healthcare among 18,226 staff, travel, and per diem nurses indicated that nurses were leaving the profession to retire early or for another occupation because of employer-related issues, career dissatisfaction, mental health and emotional well-being and the nursing shortage.

Senior leaders can use a variety of methods to address these issues to improve nurse retention. Every approach should improve the workplace environment.

“Organizations with healthy work environments are better able to recruit and retain nurses and to deliver better patient outcomes and satisfaction,” said authors of a 2022 study in the American Journal of Critical Care. “Healthy work environments enable nurses to practice in a manner that maximizes their contributions to patient and family outcomes and that has broad benefits not only for nursing and patients, but for all members of the health care team.”


Self-scheduling enhances the nurse work environment

Healthcare organizations need to create a work environment that allows nurses to organize their shifts around personal life commitments so they can enjoy a more balanced lifestyle. This type of environment can be achieved with a self-scheduling model. Providing nurses with self-scheduling capabilities gives them the autonomy to plan their schedule, which can include self-care activities that help them re-energize mentally, emotionally and physically. Self-scheduling also creates an environment where nurse managers can evenly distribute the workload among staff so they can avoid burnout.

“Organizations must be creative in meeting the needs of nurses while providing the best and safest care to the patients,” wrote authors from a report published in StatPearls. “An environment that empowers and motivates nurses is necessary to rejuvenate and sustain the nursing workforce.”

ShiftWizard by HealthStream(R) has a tool to create a healthy work environment that can raise nurse retention. Whether the facility is a smaller healthcare setup, a single department, a team of nurses, or an entire hospital system, ShiftWizard can help the nurse leadership team improve staff satisfaction, nurse well-being, and team morale.  

Schedule a complimentary demo of ShiftWizard(™) nurse scheduling software today to discover how much time you (and your staff) can get back – so you can focus on your top priorities and create a healthy work environment for everyone.