A Healthcare Headache_ The Growing Challenges of Retaining New Nurses

by edralyn on March 8, 2013

Triage at CRDAMC

Being nervous about starting a new job is natural, but in the nursing industry, some statistics say that the career is prone to particularly high turnover rates, especially among nurses who have recently graduated. Experts say that as older nurses retire, it could result in a shortage of over a quarter million nurses by the year 2025. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why nurses may choose not to stay in their career path, and some ways to change the trend.

A Breakdown of the Numbers

The American Nurse Today website published an article in June 2012 which noted the turnover incidences can cost upwards of $82,000 per nurse. Also, new graduates in their first year of practice have approximately a 30 percent chance of leaving the field. That figure climbs even higher, to just under 60 percent, in a nurse’s second year in the field.

The Factors That Contribute to Frustration

Although it’s no secret that nursing can be a stressful career path at times, The American Nurse Today piece looked deeper into why nurses may ultimately feel they made the wrong career choice. Study data found that the level of discontent for a new nurse usually reaches its highest point once that person has spent between 4 and 6 months practicing, and then re-occurs the following year. Surveyed nurses cited issues including a lack of recognition around the workplace, scheduling problems, not enough time to spend with patients, and fragile relationships with peers among their frustrations.

Furthermore, the study discovered that only 10 percent of nurses at the executive level felt confident that new graduates were capable of practicing in a safe and worthwhile manner. Perhaps these poor perceptions worsen the struggles that new graduates commonly face such as a lack of self-confidence and trouble adjusting to a new environment.

Are Residency Programs the Answer?

Although these facts are troubling for an industry that’s already plagued with staffing shortages, some experts believe that nursing residency programs can smooth the transition period for new nurses, so that they feel more able to excel. Some options of this type include features like clinical coaching by a superior, the opportunity to participate in a support group with other graduates, hands-on learning sessions and readily accessible leadership. Usually, residencies are much longer than traditional nursing orientation programs, too. Some last for 6 months to a year, or longer.

Change Begins in the Workplace Culture

Some professionals believe that tensions mount when people repeatedly spend time in a work environment that’s more stressful than nurturing. That’s why it’s so important for people at all levels of nursing to communicate with each other and address problems before they get out of control. In a supportive workplace, new nurses who are experiencing challenges should feel more at ease about speaking up and seeking help.

Building trust is important, too. When an individual feels that they are in a trustworthy environment, they’re less likely to feel ashamed if their relative inexperience in comparison to other nurses results in a shortcoming.

Whether you are studying to be a nurse, or responsible for supervising nurses on your unit, the statistics in this post should serve as a wake-up call. Improvement of nurse retention rates can start with you, and quickly spread throughout an entire workplace.

Eryn Greene writes for education blogs. If you’re an RN and would like to get your master’s degree you may want to look into the online RN to MSN programs offered at several schools.

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