Many hospitals are struggling through today’s post-pandemic circumstances, which include staff burnout, constant pressure to keep operating costs down, and a nationwide shortage of healthcare professionals. Additionally, at least 17.5% of newly minted registered nurses quit within a year of starting their first jobs, though that number has likely grown during the pandemic.
With this in mind, how can health systems combat high turnover rates and implement effective methods to find, train, and retain new nurses as they build their core staff?
While there’s no simple answer for that, Bambi Gore, MSN, FNP-BC, SimpliFi’s vice president and chief clinical officer, is convinced that the solution lies with how hospitals respond to the needs of new RNs who are beginning their careers and eager to learn.
Quality Nurse Onboarding Must Become a Priority
Building a new grad into a confident nurse starts with a quality onboarding program, and that program’s success depends upon quality preceptors.
In many legacy onboarding programs, hospital preceptors – tenured nurses tasked with training newly-hired RNs – are selected by administrators because they’re excellent nurses and not because they have the personal or professional qualifications needed to be good preceptors. This issue is compounded if nursing preceptors aren’t given much – or any – relief from their regular duties of caring for patients.
Many hospitals use the ‘tag-along model’ of nurse training where grads tag along with the nurse preceptor, who is balancing a full patient load and still hopes to tackle patient care and onboarding at once. However, the new nurse only gets what’s leftover of the preceptor’s time and attention.
“We end up with preceptors who are dedicated first to patient care – which is a good thing,” Gore details. “Then, they must do all the administrative work that goes along with that. Only then can they think about new nurse onboarding. With today’s typical hospital staffing issues and nurse workloads, the preceptors don’t have time to do all those things.”
As a result, preceptors can quickly become frustrated with their workloads. At the same time, the new nurses can become overwhelmed in their careers as they haven’t had the dedicated attention needed to learn and master bedside skills, are unsure of how to relate to patients and their families, and don’t know how to communicate with other hospital staff. They also can be disheartened because they have not been adequately coached in navigating the administrative requirements, computer programs, and hospital procedures they are expected to know.
Dedicated Preceptor Nurses Are Worth the Hospital Investment
Putting preceptor responsibilities on a nurse’s already heavy workload could be counter-productive to the long-term improvement of the profession. Gore strongly advocates that hospitals should instead use dedicated and qualified preceptors to handle the training role. Not only does that allow for more effective and positive initial training for the new nurse, but it also allows veteran RNs to continue excelling at the work they love without the added pressure of training.
This method also benefits hospitals from a business perspective. Gore says it costs hospitals between $40,000 and $90,000 every time they must hire and train a registered nurse from a novice into a competent and confident RN who can care for patients independently. Lose a nurse, and the costs quickly add up. On average, hospitals with high nurse turnover spend $3.6 million more per year compared to hospitals with high retention rates.
High nurse turnover also affects the quality of patient care. It can take weeks to advertise for, screen, interview, select, and fully onboard another “new” nurse to fill a vacancy created when an RN quits. As this happens, hospitals are left with a nursing shortage and are put in a loop of hiring, training, and losing nurses, leading to more burnout among nurses at all stages of their careers.
SimpliFi’s Onboarding Solution
As a healthcare MSP, SimpliFi seeks to implement cost-effective solutions for our clients. One way we do this is through SimpliFi’s Confidence Accelerating Practice (CAP) program, which places qualified and dedicated preceptors within a hospital to direct the training of new RNs. The CAP program is helping clients increase nurse confidence scores and decrease unit turnover.
“We aim to guide a ‘new’ nurse, fresh out of the classroom and clinical training, toward a long career as a confident RN who can handle the challenges faced in the bedside environment,” Gore says. “We want new nurses to feel good about their training experience and abilities to do the job well.”
“Onboarding new nurses is a big pressure point in every healthcare system,” Gore continues. “And we think it not only saves hospitals significant money, in the long run, to invest in a dedicated and well-thought-out onboarding process, but it also produces better results in both the satisfaction and retention of nurses.”
Want to hear more about SimpliFi’s CAP program and how it’s helping hospitals? Read our latest case study.