This emphasizes the need to identify all stakeholders, including primary, secondary, and tertiary parties, and understanding what makes them successful. These stakeholders can include nursing schools or even competing organizations.
"It doesn't necessarily mean you have to help them be successful, but it does mean that you have to understand how they define success," he explained.
By applying systems theory, nurse leaders consider nursing workforce issues at the macro, meso (intermediate), and micro levels.
"Macro could be considered what's happening in the country, what's happening at the state level," Ridge said.
Nurse leaders need to understand the macro level data—like HRSA workforce projections and state workforce center supply and demand reports—and then consider how it affects the nursing workforce at the local level.
"What does that have to do with your hospital, your organization, your county, your city? It's the context," Ridge said. "Our plans are at the local level, but within the context of the overall."
Individual facilities are considered the meso level and the interacting departments are the micro level, Ridge explained.
"One of the big pitfalls when we don't think of systems is we end up with department level programs. Everybody's working on their own thing… and what it's called in systems theory is suboptimization," he said.
"All these little micro units, departments, might be doing a terrific job, but in the whole scheme of things, then at the meso level, your organization's level, you're really not seeing synergies, you're not seeing the outcomes that you need."
Nursing is a Brand
The third underpinning is development of a nursing brand. Many hospital and healthcare system brands market the organization's services to the community, Ridge said. But leaders also need to be mindful about marketing their organizations to prospective employees.
"When we look at brands, at many hospitals, it's really two approaches. We're marketing our services to the community and then we market our brand as an employer," he said. "Look at your own organizations and see how you're tying the two brands together."
A few years ago, when Ridge was assessing how Magnet designation and nursing was portrayed on hospital websites in New Jersey, he found that 30% of Magnet hospitals mentioned they had Magnet recognition but only 20% identified their CNOs.
Of course, even when taking a comprehensive approach to nursing workforce planning, nurse leaders need to assess and adjust their workforce plans based on data.
"You must have metrics that strategically support change at all levels," he said.
Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.