Hospital leaders can start the process by asking nurses a simple question: What is it going to take to keep you here?
“Nurses who want to work 4 hour shifts? Bring them on. Maybe I want to go to Florida for the winter but I will work all summer, so give me my three months off. Maybe I don’t want to cut down, I just want to shift things,” Donlon says. “Here’s another thing, working from home. There is resistance to that. How do I know what you are going to be doing at home? We have to get over that.”
Nurses have to be willing to explore new roles, too, and not necessarily let their past job experiences dictate their future job potential. “We as nurses trap ourselves, sometimes saying ‘I’ve worked on Med/Surg for 20 years what else can I do?’ But there are so many things we can do,” Donlon says.
Remember, however, that things like flexible schedules, shifting duties, mentoring programs, and team-care projects – no matter how well designed -- are only stop-gap measures. They cannot change the inalterable fact that America’s nursing workforce is graying along with the people for whom they provide care. At some point, they’re going to clock-off, no matter what’s going on in the economy.