Invest To Retain: Developing Effective Nurse Leaders

January 4, 2023
January 4, 2023

This blog was taken from a recent HealthStream webinar entitled “Invest to Retain: Developing Effective Nurse Leaders.” The webinar was moderated by HealthStream’s Drew Casteel and featured: 

  • Dareni Lowe, BSN, BBA, RN, Manager, Sigma Marketplace
  • Erin Glover, DNP, MHA, RN, NPD-BC, NE-BC, Manager of Professional Practice/Pathway Program, Director/Nursing Administration, Wellstar Health System
  • Stephanie Gedeon, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, Nursing Quality and Process Improvement Administrative Director, Augusta Health

Healthcare leaders face a number of mission-critical issues, but perhaps there is no more significant issue than that of retention and recruitment. Nurturing and retaining nurse leaders is a meaningful way in which to demonstrate your commitment to the development of your nursing staff. The panel shared some idea on how to best accomplish this.


Developing Nurse Leaders – Key Strategies and Programs

Gedeon began by addressing the critical nature of the role of a nurse leader. Nurse leaders are expected to be both the face and the influencer of the executive team. “They need to be innovative and relatable while still maintaining an executive presence,” said Gedeon. Dr. Glover also pointed out that we ask a great deal of our nurse leaders and she encouraged healthcare leaders to think about ways in which they could invest in the development of highly effective nurse leaders. She also had some specific development recommendations. 

  • Certification Exam Preparation and Maintenance: Certifications help to refresh knowledge of current practice and fosters continuous professional growth. She also pointed out that financial support for preparation, exams and maintenance is important as well.
  • Mentoring: Dr. Glover encouraged nurse leaders to both mentor and be mentored to facilitate ongoing development and to help nurses and leaders discover their strengths and areas of expertise.
  • Partnerships Between Academia and Healthcare Practice Settings: Use these partnerships to help nurses bridge the school to practice gaps that new nurses experience.
  • Succession Planning: Dr. Glover encouraged leaders to be intentional about the identification and development of the next generation of healthcare leaders rather than simply relying on seniority.
  • Professional Organization and Conference Participation: This recommendation pays off in two meaningful ways. Professional organizations and conferences are great ways to meet colleagues and build a strong network and they also represent a great opportunity to bring best practices back to the organization.
  • Pursuing Journeys of Excellence: Dr. Glover shared that as her own organization has been on the Magnet journey, they have already seen how the journey itself fosters succession planning and mentoring. It can also serve to engage team members and help them feel connected to a greater purpose.


Retaining Nurse Leaders – Key Strategies and Programs

The presenters then turned their attention to retention strategies. Dr. Glover encouraged a holistic approach to building retention strategies and both presenters consider recognition a key component of that strategy. She stressed that nurse leaders who often have 24 hour accountability along with a broad span of control need to be recognized for their efforts and for the ways in which they are supporting their teams. While it is often overlooked, Dr. Glover shared that nurse leader retention can also be strongly contributory to frontline nurse retention.

In addition to recognition, both Gedeon and Dr. Glover also shared the importance of well-being and supporting and celebrating a healthy work-life balance. Burnout, exhaustion and a poor work-life balance are frequently cited by managers leaving their jobs. Gedeon also pointed to studies that cited poor sleep health as contributory to burnout. Offering mental health and wellness benefits can help along with supporting an infrastructure where managers can have uninterrupted time off. In addition, protected time for professional development and offering resources such as HealthStream can also build retention.

Gedeon went on to stress the importance of early development of nurses and leaders along with the importance of mentorship and building real opportunities to grow based on a solid understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses.

She also shared the essentials of the framework for development and retention – support, develop and accomplish. Healthcare leaders need to support the processes and infrastructure that will offer work-life balance and support the professional development that is critical to the development of leaders and a personal and organizational journey to excellence. Senior leaders also need to recognize and reward accomplishments as well as educational and career milestones.