What your nurses expect from you (or else they'll quit)

Poor working conditions are responsible for high turnover rates.

The Great Resignation has spread across the country, hitting the healthcare industry by storm. And every day, more and more of our beloved nurses are abandoning their careers due to extreme dissatisfaction with their roles. 90 percent are considering leaving within the next year, with 71 percent of those nurses having over 15 years of experience in the healthcare sector.

It is no surprise that the healthcare industry is one of the most stressful and demanding fields to work in, but it isn't necessarily the nature of the work that is causing so many nurses to lose passion for what they used to love. As it turns out, poor working conditions are responsible for these high turnover rates. Let's talk through the changes that will have to be made to keep nurses from walking out, particularly within skilled nursing facilities and long-term care centers.

Effective staffing

An alarming research study claims that about 95 percent of U.S.-based nursing facilities are reportedly understaffed. Facing this reality on a daily basis would make anyone feel defeated, burnt out, and overstretched. And to make matters even more upsetting, it's not that there aren't enough nurses available for duty. With over five million nurses in the United States, it shouldn't be difficult to adequately staff a facility, but many organizations are choosing to increase the responsibilities of their current staff rather than hire more team members. 

As a result of irresponsible staffing, healthcare facilities are causing more resignations than they can afford to manage. These nurses are refusing to adjust to the working conditions around them — and rightly so. However, this means that the remaining staff is left to pick up the excess, which can have dangerous consequences, like lower-quality care and poorer patient outcomes.

Childcare and family support

Long hours and wavering schedules are a norm within this sector. While nurses are expected to be flexible, they also have lives outside of their careers. A lot of them have children and adult dependents to look after, and it is often challenging to do so when they are constantly asked to work late or come in on their off days.

As nurses are some of the most dedicated workers on the planet, they will often rise to the occasion and work extra shifts so long as their outside needs are met. Leaders can do their part by implementing more flexible schedules, increasing paid time off benefits, and even considering reimbursing staff for outside services to help them care for their children and loved ones.

More effective administrative strategies

Administrative tasks can be incredibly time-consuming and put even more stress on a nurse's already busy schedule. These duties take a lot of time to complete, which is valuable time spent away from patients. Everyone can agree that current and accurate documentation is key to running a successful healthcare facility, but the way in which these records are recorded should be more modernized.

Even the most talented and attentive nurses are bound to make their fair share of manual entry errors as humans aren't robots. Fortunately, technology advances by the day, and more companies are implementing automated solutions to make these processes easier and more efficient. Instead of grabbing a pen and paper after each patient, workers would appreciate having services that are operated by QR codes and scans, taking a lot of the repetitive footwork off of their hands.

Mindful staffing policies

Asking nurses to work overtime, especially with no heads-up, is a common theme across the long-term care sector. One can also grow accustomed to being asked to carry out non-nursing duties and float to other units, even though they are struggling to keep up with their own obligations. They also often work through their lunches and find no time to take the breaks that are legally granted to them, leaving them undernourished and with no time to recharge between a long list of patients. These issues, among many others, can be fixed by hiring more relief and putting better practices in place to lighten the heavy load that nurses are expected to carry every day.

Better mental health services

We are no longer ignoring the impact that poor mental health can have on our lives, yet nurses are still not receiving the type of mental health support they deserve. A recent study that surveyed over 2,500 nurses from across the world reported that 75 percent of them had experienced burnout, and 64 percent had to continue to come to work even though they were battling depression.

The best way forward is to offer a wide range of mental healthcare options. Instead of selecting a program for all employees to use, leaders should encourage employees to seek out the providers and resources that would be the best fit for their needs and then provide financial relief or reimbursement options.

As the heart of the healthcare industry, the cries of nurses should be taken more seriously by leaders. If their needs continue to go unheard and unaddressed, society as a whole will continue to suffer from their absence.

Bent Philipson is the founder of Philosophy Care, a consulting firm that provides care guidance to skilled nursing facilities throughout New York and New Jersey. Under Bent Philipson’s leadership, Philosophy Care is dedicated to providing each resident with individualized care.