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Sense of Mission Could Boost Millennial Nurse Retention

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   November 21, 2017

To improve millennial RN retention, nurse leaders may want to consider appealing to this generation's commitment to service.

I had the opportunity to moderate breakout sessions with more than 30 top nurse leaders from across the country at the HealthLeaders Media invitation-only Chief Nursing Officer Exchange Nov. 6–8 at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia in Arizona.

The two major discussion topics this year were new models of care and the nurse of the future. Those are, indeed, some hefty subjects to tackle, and, as always, there was rich discussion and sharing of insights and solutions, which I'll be unpacking in the coming months. So, stay tuned!

In my role as moderator, and as a writer and an editor, it’s my job to pose questions and then sit back and listen to what others say. But, since I am also a nurse, I often can’t help myself from formulating my own insights. As I’ve just wrapped up a cover story on clinician supply and demand that will publish in the December HealthLeaders magazine, I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the nursing workforce.

During the exchange, many CNOs spoke about the difficulty they have retaining nurses in the millennial generation. Unlike the baby boomers, who tended to spend their careers at one facility, millennials change jobs and even organizations much more frequently. Data from the national RN Work Project study finds that 26.2% of newly licensed RNs left their first nursing job within 25 months.

Does this mean that nursing churn will just be a fact of life?

Possibly. But, what would happen if nurse leaders were able to harness another trait typical of many millennials: the drive to make a difference.

According to a new study published in the October 2017 Health Affairs, researchers at Montana State University found that millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) are becoming RNs at almost double the rate that baby boomers once did.

Matching Missions

Could millennial nurse retention improve if organizations were able to match their missions to those of their new hires?

After all, most nurses went into nursing to make a difference in people’s lives. This desire to help was a central theme during the CNO Exchange’s storytelling session where CNOs shared personal stories of why they chose nursing.

Perhaps an opportunity to work at an organization that helps improve the health of patient populations who are dealing with poverty, poor health incomes, unemployment, or are part of an immigrant population could be attractive to a millennial nurse.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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