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DEAR WORKFORCE

IDear Workforce-I How Do I Hold On To Stressed-Out Nurses

The corny things may not be so corny.
April 23, 2000
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Related Topics: Retention, Dear Workforce
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Q

Dear Workforce:

I read Workforce. I read the newsletter e-mail. I have reviewed all sources I can find. I have over 100 Staff Nurses in the Newborn Critical Care Center. One third of the staff have been here longer than 10 years! This is a chaotic and incredibly stressful environment. I need something other than salary increases to hold them here. I don't control the purse strings and despite intense bargaining with those above, am unable to provide raises that even keep up with inflation. I am searching for something that jaded, hardened, old-timers won't think is stupid or useless, which they will belittle.

Tough cookies but great nurses. Work is unbelievably hard with long hours and lots of overtime, some voluntary but a few years back our staff did one year of mandatory OT.

They have made it through a lot. Please advise. Thanks so much.

-- Tina

A

Dear Tina:

Retention of specialized talent in a price-competitive market is always a challenge. Some workers are just looking for more money and will simply follow the dollar. In most cases, however, we're seeing that people today want more than just a fatter paycheck. Sometimes workers do leave, thinking the grass will be better on the other side of the fence. A significant number return (boomerang employees). Be sure your policies allow you to welcome these folks back into the fold. They'll be more loyal, since they've seen the alternatives, and they'll tell the rest of your people that it's better to stay with you.

Non-monetary benefits are increasingly important today. Flexible hours: Can you give your nurses any control over what hours they work? Are you able to modify the traditional shifts for someone who wants or needs to work different hours because of childcare or transportation issues? Are you having fun? Your nurses are doing wonderful work-serious, important work.

A bright, cheery environment (colorful decorations), pleasant music, pizza or ice cream surprises, pot luck lunches, and an enthusiastic attitude go a long way. Yes, these things work with hardened old-timers.

Your experienced nurses are all highly dedicated to their work. Recognize that dedication (see Bob Nelson's "1001 Ways to Reward Employees"). Arrange for recognition from your hospital administrators, board, and doctors. Some community awareness is good, too. Give people the support they need to get their jobs done; minimize their hassle, smooth their workday. You'll find some ideas in the new book "Keeping Good People." Provide opportunities for continuing professional education so your nurses feel they're always on the leading edge of knowledge and technology.

Ask your valued people what they like about working with you, and then give them more of what they like. Ask what they don't like, what gets in their way, then reduce those factors. Remember, it's more than money today. People want to enjoy their work and make a meaningful difference. Your environment provides excellent opportunities!

SOURCE: Roger Herman, CSP, CMC, The Herman Group, Greensboro, NC.

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