HR Blog

Flexible scheduling system can help HR leaders improve staff retention

May 3, 2023
May 3, 2023

Scheduling software not only makes healthcare staff scheduling for nurse leadership more manageable and efficient, it can also assist human resource (HR) leaders with overcoming the growing workforce challenges they face. HR leaders are operating in an increasingly complex healthcare environment that continues to grapple with the effects of the pandemic. In addition to recruiting and retaining qualified employees during an unprecedented healthcare staff shortage, HR leaders are dealing with high staff turnover, clinician burnout, and low staff engagement.

One way to address these issues is by adopting a scheduling strategy that will provide the staff with greater job satisfaction and a healthier work-life balance. When employees are happy, they are more engaged and less likely to leave their employer.

Staff turnover is on the rise

Turnover among healthcare workers has increased in recent years. A report by the Advisory Board showed that median turnover for bedside RNs has doubled over the past decade, jumping from 8.7% in 2010 to 18.8% in 2021.

Meanwhile, in 2022, hospital turnover continues to be elevated, according to the 2023 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report. Nationally, the rate of hospital turnover is 22.7%, a 3.2% decrease from 2021. Nurse turnover is at 22.5%, which is a 4.6% decrease from 2021. The report said the nurse vacancy rate “remains critical” and is 15.7% nationally. Although it represents a 1.3% reduction than last year, more than 75% of hospitals have a vacancy rate that exceeds 10%. The findings also indicated that the average cost of turnover for a bedside RN is $52,350, and that can result in a loss of between $6.6 million and $10.5 million per year for the average hospital.

“Today, hospitals are faced with even greater struggles as they address daily challenges of finding available capacity for a burgeoning patient population with an increased demand for inpatient healthcare services, combined with an uptick in employee turnover,” wrote Stephen Lothrop, a managing director for Berkeley Research Group, LLC, in an article for the American College of Healthcare Executives. “If a hospital did not have a disciplined management system and an employee retention strategy before the pandemic, the new demands on our healthcare systems are likely exploiting these struggles.”

Burnout and low employee engagement are key drivers of turnover

Two of the major contributors to healthcare staff turnover are burnout and a lack of employee engagement. Burnout lowers nurses' quality of life, performance level, and organizational commitment and increases their intention to leave the job. It also has a profound impact on staffing, including absenteeism, presenteeism, reduced productivity, turnover, and clinicians leaving the profession, according to a 2019 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine titled, “Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being.”

Before the pandemic, more than one-third of nurses reported burnout while annual nurse turnover was approximately 17%. Since COVID-19, nurse burnout has been around 50% and nurse turnover rates have ranged between 20% and 30%. That is what Jane Muir, a University of Virginia Health emergency room nurse and School of Nursing doctoral student, discovered in her research that was published in the June 2022 issue of the Journal of Patient Safety.

Muir and her colleagues also found that nurses who worked at hospitals with burnout reduction programs stayed at their jobs about 20% longer than nurses who worked at hospitals without such initiatives. Furthermore, they revealed that hospitals with burnout reduction initiatives spent $11,592 per nurse per year employed on burnout-related costs, and that was about 30% less than hospitals without such programs, which spent, on average, $16,736 per nurse per year employed. A strong argument can be made for HR leaders to create a retention strategy that involves increasing engagement among their clinician staff.

“Improving nurse engagement has implications for nurse retention,” researchers concluded in a 2016 study published in the Journal of Nursing Administration. “Nurses working in hospitals with higher levels of engagement are less likely to report job dissatisfaction, burnout and intent to leave, which have implications for nurse turnover. Additionally, our findings confirm previous studies both inside and outside of nursing that has identified engagement as a key facet of job satisfaction.”


Better staff scheduling practices will boost retention

As HR leaders build their retention plans, they should consider adopting a scheduling system that is flexible, easily accessible, and healthcare-specific. 

With ShiftWizard, HR executives can offer a mobile-ready tool that can allow nurses to self-schedule, choose varying shift lengths, easily request time off, and swap shifts with their coworkers when needed. Adopting this flexible system as part of a workforce management strategy can position a facility as an attractive place to work.

Self-scheduling is a particularly useful feature because it gives nurses control to create a schedule that is most suitable for their lifestyle. When self-scheduling is utilized to its full capacity, it ensures nurses achieve better work-life harmony and helps them to avoid working stressful shift patterns that can lead to burnout.

“We found that flexible scheduling makes clinicians more likely to indicate improvement in control over their workload, which can translate into reduced work-related stress,” said Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP, Director of Caregiver Engagement and Wellbeing in Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute and first author of a 2022 study that examined the impact of a flexible schedule.

A key ingredient among healthcare organizations with highly engaged staff is that they nurture in their nurses a sense of empowerment to contribute in decision-making for schedules. This shared governance is important in empowering nurses and subsequently improving retention. If leadership can remove the stress caused by an inflexible schedule, nurses can find a more optimal balance between their careers and overall well-being.


For more information on how you can best use ShiftWizard for flexible staff scheduling, please reach out to us at