Blog: Tactics to Improve Nurse Engagement-1001423914

Tactics to Improve Nurse Engagement

May 14, 2021
May 14, 2021

The need for care providers and organizations to work on nurse engagement is far from something new for the healthcare industry, and we have blogged about the risks of nurse disengagement before. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world of healthcare upside down, especially in terms of how care professionals feel about their work and their employers. Not only are many nurses considering leaving the profession, but those who stay in the profession are likely going to feel the impact of trauma and burnout for quite a while. Healthcare organizations will need to focus on tactics for strengthening nurse engagement, which may be more important than ever for maintaining a competent, committed workforce.

Why Nurse Engagement Is Critical

When nurses are engaged in their work and with their organizations, they feel happier and can experience better health. According to HealthLeaders, “Organizations with a culture of engagement demonstrate that people are valued. Employees feel rewarded and recognized.” The positive results are not just restricted to employees. Rather, patient outcomes see a clear benefit as well. The same article offers that “Nurses involved in professional governance have the opportunity to have their voices heard and impact outcomes. This allows the nurses to work smarter and produce better outcomes, which fosters innovation. Engaged nurses are dedicated to the mission and feel more energized and committed to their work.”

Key Drivers of Nurse Engagement

One way to foster engagement among nurses is to aim organizational efforts at the characteristics of nurses who are in sync with providing care and with the mission of where they work. HealthLeaders also suggests 6 ways that healthcare providers can promote nurse engagement:

  1. Autonomy: Trust nurses to make decisions.
  2. Relationships: Encourage connections and respect among staff.
  3. Development: Provide and encourage career and personal growth
  4. Leadership: Executives and managers must visibly support an engagement culture.
  5. Meaning: Focus on purpose, especially the “why” involved in a healthcare career.
  6. Focus on Strengths: Ensure employees regularly get to practice what they do well.

Specific Nurse Engagement Strategies

In addition to big picture efforts focused on creating a work environment more conducive to nurse engagement, here are some specific tactics that may be beneficial:

  • Provide Emotional Support -- The Advisory Board offers that “The best bet for improving engagement and retaining nurses over the long haul is to focus on emotional support.” Especially given the demands of the healthcare workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, they “recommend that organizations provide targeted support for three types of emotionally charged scenarios that staff nurses are likely to encounter: trauma and grief, moral distress, and compassion fatigue.”
  • Adopt More Flexible Nurse Scheduling -- Another suggestion from the Advisory Board is to embrace flexibility when it comes to the nursing workforce. Pandemic surges required most providers to be less rigid about nurse scheduling, and leaders should incorporate “some elements of this flexibility into nursing practice. Doing so will not only help hospitals respond to uncertain demand—it'll create flexible roles that better meet the needs of their nurses.”
  • Connect Strongly to Mission – According to Gallup, “High-talent healthcare professionals are mission-driven -- outlining an organization's purpose and mission and connecting that to employees' roles is a powerful long-term employee value proposition.”
  • Incorporate Effective Communication – According to a 2020 Nurse Lead article, healthcare organizations are well served by instituting a communication strategy that “gives importance to meaningful, 2-way communication…, [limits] information “to all” and [is] focused on sharing valuable information to those who needed the specific information. AN important goal of communication practices should be to avoid overwhelming staff with too much communication that can lead to “to information overload and miscommunication.”
  • Use Recognition More Effectively – The same Nurse Lead article adds that “Recognition is an important tool for leaders as it is about acknowledging someone, highlighting excellence with accolades and rewards. Rewards do not have to be expensive yet have major impact on staff engagement.” An important recommendation here is that regular nominations from nursing staff and leaders are required to significantly impact nurse engagement.

Ultimately, improving nurse engagement needs to be one of the ways that healthcare organizations work to increase nurse retention, a vital goal in the face of looming nurse shortages and growing care demands on the healthcare system. Nurses who feel valued and supported, as well as more engaged with their employers, are more likely to stay, as well as contribute to better outcomes.

HealthStream Focuses on Nurses and Clinical Development

At HealthStream we spend a lot of time focused on improving outcomes by supporting and developing the clinical workforce, an important contributor to improved nurse engagement. Learn more about our specific solutions that support nurse engagement.