Controlling Nurse Labor Costs
"If you lose a nurse, you're talking huge premiums. And, interestingly, we know where there is turnover in our organization. But we know how to recruit, we're good at it, and we're lucky to have a great college of nursing associated with our medical center," says Nash. "What we find is professional nurses are looking for more than a job; they're looking for ongoing learning, extensive in-service meetings, nursing grand rounds and they want to be treated well."
Davenport says it's better to focus on retention than on replacement of nursing staff. "Turnover is costly; but it's also disruptive—physicians and the rest of the team like to know who they are working with, too," she says.
Davenport says at Ochsner Medical Center-North Shore, the staff reviews nurse turnover monthly to understand what may be causing unexpected departures—striving to get at the cause of the separation.
"We stay informed and are forward-thinking about what it takes to keep the RN working for us. A better opportunity may simply mean the nurse chooses to move to an 8-to-5 shift clinic position with no weekends or holidays. Hospital work is challenging for an individual's family life, so we do our best to set the expectation that we are a 24-hour operation because that is what our patients need from us," she says.
"We've found historically, if you have a nursing unit with high turnover, you're going to have dissatisfied physicians. As CEO, it's essential to me to have a satisfied physician group as well as a strong team of nurses. That combination contributes to the quality of care delivered," says Davenport. "What makes a successful, engaged physician is having a strong nurse workforce—that means retaining the nurses you've already trained."
This article appears in the January 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.