Understanding and Addressing Today’s Nursing Challenges


By Jennifer Melham  

Prior to the pandemic, the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report predicted that by 2030, we’ll have one of the largest shortages for RNs the industry has seen. The pandemic has exacerbated this. The Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting may seem like only buzzwords, but these are very real challenges employers are facing, and healthcare facilities are no exception.

This is compounded by the fact that there’s been an increase in early retirement among clinical and nursing staff, which is diminishing the population of highly experienced nurses. Read on as we uncover more about these problems, and how to address them through both recruitment and retention strategies.

Addressing the Challenges

Group of nurses having a discussionIn order to address the challenges, healthcare leadership must first understand them. Nurses today, for instance, aren’t practicing to the top of their license due to staffing shortages. While the majority of their time should be spent on patient care planning, nurses are finding their time is being spent on extraneous tasks such as serving patients meals or drawing blood for tests. This leads to long hours and overloaded clinicians–issues such as this are leading to burnout among staff, and clinicians leaving the profession altogether.

It’s vital as well to understand the internal challenges created through generational differences, with Traditionalists and Baby Boomers beginning to leave the workforce and Gen Z entering it. This creates a pipeline issue, exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure at the academic level to support the demand needed within facilities—this includes lack of clinical site availability, graduates desiring to go back to school for advanced degrees, and students not being well equipped for the shifts and workloads available to them.

“These challenges are complex and require multiple changes. The way we led before must change and adapt. We want to make sure the investments we make are the best ones to be making.” – Patti Artley, Chief Nursing Officer, Medical Solutions

To properly address these challenges, healthcare leaders must:

  • Understand that the idea of “one size fits all” does not apply. It doesn’t touch today’s nursing industry.
  • Invest in front-line leadership in a different way.
  • Understand that pipeline development and investment are necessary.
  • Develop both short and long-term strategies.
  • Invest in technology to improve efficiency.

Recruitment Strategies

There are both short and long-term strategies your facility can implement that will help you address the problems we outlined above. For instance, one short-term strategy is to be quick in assessing, interviewing, and offering jobs. The hiring process needs to be fast and efficient while also of course being carefully targeted and managed—this is just one of the things Medical Solutions helps you to achieve.

An example of a long-term strategy involves really understanding the mindset of incoming nurses and answering a common question they have, “Will I have opportunities to progress here?”

Short-Term Strategies

  • Create a dashboard to review the progress of hiring practices.
    • A 90-day follow-up with new hires is essential to learn what their experience has been with orientation, onboarding, and company culture.
  • Frequently reevaluate your pay practices against your local and state competition.
    • Are your pay rates competitive?
    • Do you offer a sign-on bonus? If not, should you?

Long-Term Strategies: Academia

This includes a mix of clinical experiences, academic partnerships, and internal programs. Healthcare leaders should meet with students during their clinical rotations to develop relationships, offer support through scholarship opportunities, and look at how they can start early in the high school and middle school environments—especially in STEM programs.

This may include:

  • Offering Apprentice Programs
  • Attending Career Fairs
  • Providing Simulation Opportunities

Academic development internally is essential as well. This can look like guiding clinicians from:

  • Acute Care to Intermediate or ICU Units
  • Med-Surg to Post-Anesthesia Care Units or Diagnostics Units
  • Transplant to Dialysis
  • Gastrointestinal to Endoscopy
  • Telemetry to the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory

Retention Strategies

The two newest generations in healthcare, Millennials and Gen Z, are looking for relationships with their managers. It’s up to healthcare leaders to cultivate these relationships to improve internal recruitment and minimize clinicians hopping from one unit to another in hopes their situation will improve.

“Overall turnover is decreasing, but vacancies remain the same. Healthcare leaders must invest in their talent and focus on internal turnover. This starts by leading with heart and a servant mindset. Make decisions with compassion while holding people accountable.” – Artley

Front-line leaders don’t often understand the impact relationships have on retention, and this is where turnover happens. Here are some tips on how that can change:

  • By Rewarding Positive Behavior vs. Coaching Negative Behavior
  • Succession Planning
  • By Creating Mentorship Opportunities
  • Developing Internal Interest Groups
  • Addressing Generational Differences
  • Providing Growth Opportunities:
    • Offering scholarships for non-professional team members to go back to school
    • Creating free or reduced cost continuing education programs
    • Providing job simulation, like new challenges or team-building activities
    • Offering professional development opportunities to retain top talent
    • Offering career pathways

Improving Work Environment and Conditions

One final way to address the challenges nursing faces, and start improving both recruitment and retention, is by improving the overall work environment and conditions of your facility, including:

  • Streamlining the Charting Process
  • Encouraging All Employees to Practice at the Top of Their License
  • Challenging the “Status Quo” and Promoting Positive Change
  • Addressing Support Deficiencies and Frustrations Among Staff
  • Ensuring Your Teams Have the Tools to Do Their Jobs
  • Offering EAP and Debriefs to Support Mental Health

Have you partnered with a healthcare talent ecosystem company yet to address your strategic staffing needs? Now is the time to begin the conversation. Start working with Medical Solutions today!

Jennifer Melham is a content specialist for Medical Solutions.

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