The Importance of Mentoring to Aid Retention

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Does your health system have a strategic view of staffing needs and potential solutions to retain the best nurses and other clinicians? You should, because in 2022, retention is the new recruitment. New staff is valuable, but existing staff is critical. When health systems can find and attract talented clinicians, the real mission is retaining them. Mentorship programs for new nurses and recent graduates can improve patient care and help systems retain talented clinicians.

Demographic Reality

The nursing shortage is not going away any time soon. The number of U.S. residents aged 65 years and over is projected to increase to 82 million by 2030, up from 54 million in 2021. At the same time, nursing school enrollment has not kept up with demand, which has grown due to the aging population. As a result, registered nursing is among the fastest growing occupations in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2019-2029. The COVID pandemic worsened the existing nursing shortage when many nurses opted for an earlier retirement.

Negative Impact of Turnover

Hiring can be expensive, but turnover is worse. Turnover can affect the cohesiveness of the work environment, burden remaining staff, and negatively impact patient care. The churn of new staff creates additional costs, both direct and indirect.

A “brain drain” of clinicians with decades of experience retiring and being replaced by newer clinicians with less experience creates a significant soft cost. Losing five clinicians with 20 years of experience and replacing them with clinicians who’ve been working for two years equates to 90 years of experience lost. This can have serious implications and even patient care consequences if not properly managed. Mentorship can provide a solution to reduce the impact of turnover or nurse retirement.

The Mentorship and Retention Connection

As the nursing shortage has grown more acute due to the pandemic, hospitals are establishing new or better ways to mentor and train nurses. Learning and development opportunities through mentoring between senior and junior clinicians can help close or avoid the knowledge and experience gap created by hiring new staff

Bridging the experience gap through mentorship programs can have a direct and positive impact on patient care.  A 2017 study on mentoring by Diane Kostrey Horner found that “a mentoring experience can provide a positive environment, which can lead to increased job satisfaction. In turn, a higher level of satisfaction in the work environment can be associated with reduced turnover and improved retention and patient outcomes.”

Proven Results

A mentorship program at the University of Vermont Medical Center is demonstrating some impressive results. A survey of new nurses after participation in the medical intensive care unit (MICU) mentor program found that most (87.5%) said the experience was positive. Staff retention was one objective of the program. After new nurses are hired in the MICU, they’re asked to remain employed in the unit for at least two years. Since the program began, 70% of participating new nurses remain employed on the unit, and only 10% left it before their two-year contract was complete.

How much mentoring is needed? As part of the mentee survey at the University of Vermont Medical Center, new nurses were asked how long they feel mentorship should continue to provide support: 50% of respondents recommended two to three months of support after orientation, 33% recommended up to six months, and 8% recommended one month.

Some companies are taking mentorship to another level and creating in-house residency programs. In the case of the hospice specialty, a Massachusetts provider (Care Dimensions) saw the lack of specific training as a recruitment barrier and built the residency program to attract more employees.

Unsure where to start with your strategic staffing plan? Medical Solutions can help you develop ways to improve hiring speed, onboarding, and retention. Start a conversation with our experts today, and start exploring ways to find, attract, and retain talent.

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