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Controlling Nurse Labor Costs

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, January 19, 2012
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"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.


Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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5 comments on "Controlling Nurse Labor Costs"


Bill (2/10/2012 at 1:22 PM)
The key to this ability to pull together granular data often from multiple sources in away that nursing managers can easily understand what is going on without the need to be technical or spending hours a week in Excel. Our client NYU won a Smithsonian award for building exactly this kind of nursing productivity tool. http://www.informationbuilders.com/applications/nyu_honor

Mary K Freel (2/2/2012 at 1:16 PM)
"A nurse is a nurse is a nurse" no longer works in this day of advanced technologies and care. You cannot expect a pediatric nurse to take care of cardiac patients or an OB nurse to handle the ER. When a nurse is pulled[INVALID]like the author suggests hospitals do[INVALID]to an unfamiliar floor she is expected to work as though she always worked there[INVALID]often taking a team. I would like to see a study of errors with particular attention to whether that was the nurse's usual floor. I bet the rate of errors goes up dramatically with the rate of pulls. Even with orientation to specific floors pulling is a dangerous practice because your skill sets for each floor are entirely different and often the medicines used are entirely different.

Linda Kozak (1/22/2012 at 1:33 PM)
Well, this is no startling revelation to this 45+ years of nursing service and commitment " old nurse" I have made this statement more than once in my career about using agencies for all the incorrect reasons. and have lost jobs over having an educated opinion. You need a nurse with knowledge and experience to save a life and teach the newbies. Sincerely, Linda K