5 Ways to Reduce Nursing Turnover in Year One

John Commins, February 7, 2011

Turnover among first-year nurses remains a huge cost driver and source of frustration for hospital managers. It's hard enough to find these skilled clinicians, and even more annoying that they quit, just when they should be settling into their new careers. That leaves harried HR staff to start the process anew and with no more assurances of retaining the next new recruit.

Beyond the hard-and-fast cost of finding and on-boarding replacements or hiring temps, first-year nurse turnover impacts patient care. It also signals larger workforce management issues, most notably a failure to effectively engage employees and sell them on the mission.  

There are theories about why first-year nurses quit. Perhaps some of these new nurses weren't trained well in school, a cold fact that comes home quickly in the life-and-death hospital setting. Some new nurses probably have unrealistic expectations that collide with on-the-job realities. Some nurses get better offers elsewhere for their high-in-demand skills. Maybe, just maybe, your hospital is not a good place to work. Whatever the reason, the problem persists.

If it's any consolation, Shebani Patel, a director with PwC Saratoga, the workforce research arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, says retaining new workers is a challenge not unique to healthcare.

"First year turnover tends to be the most problematic length of service for most organizations across most industries," she says. "What is occurs is the assimilation process -- that is really critical for organizations -- but sometimes the goal is just filling positions and getting people in the door and the steps aren't always done in the best way possible."

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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