Identifying Nursing Retention Strategies

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With each passing year the nursing profession loses a higher number of nurses to retirement than it can replace, and facilities have been actively working to identify retention strategies. While some nurses retire early to pursue other careers, it appears that there are ways to encourage nurses to remain in the profession.

A study conducted by June Marie Kirschling, DNS, RN, FAAN, examines retention factors. The study looked at whether registered nurses intended to remain in the profession by examining age, education level, work setting and position within the healthcare organization.

They found that the biggest predictor of whether a nurse would continue to work rather than retiring was whether additional hours were added to their schedules. The most beneficial range was around 11 additional hours, with nurses being about 3 times as likely to stay when they were able to work about that many additional hours. Fewer hours additional still had a positive effect but it was less marked. When many more additional hours were offered, there was actually a negative effect, with nurses being about 11 times more likely to leave when 21 or more additional hours were added.

Questions were posed to 8038 participants in the study with two subsets; 1831 respondents were identified as seeking changes to their work hours, and 6207 did not desire to change their hours.

The desire to change hours had little effect on the predictability of nurses remaining in the profession when age was taken into consideration. Simply stated, older nurses were less likely than younger nurses to remain in the profession for the next five years.

The level of education played a more significant role in predicting nurse retention than age. Nurses with an RN degree who were also seeking to change their hours were 3.32 times more likely to leave their jobs; with an associate degree, nurses were 2.83 times more likely to remain. In the group not seeking a change to the hours, only the diploma prepared nurses registered significant data of 1.95 times more likely to leave the job. (Scores for baccalaureate prepared nurses were not significant.)

Barring all other demographic data analysis, the biggest contributing factor to nurse retention was the number of hours worked. Whether nurses wanted to change their hours or not, all nurses responded favorably to the possibility of adding more hours to their schedule. In fact, the more hours made available to them (up to a point), the more likely they were to remain on the job.

When “hours worked” and “hours hired (for)” were compared, nurses who wished to change their hours were 2.29 times more likely to stay when 1 to 5 hours were added to their schedules, and 2.83 times more willing to stay if 6 to 10 hours were added. When more than 11 hours were added, nurses were 3.05 times more likely to stay.

Beyond an additional 11 hours, though, the likelihood of nurses to leave the job increases significantly. When more than 21 hours are added, nurses were 10.99 times more likely to leave the job.

Nurse managers and facility administrators may want to take this data into consideration in terms of attempting to retain valued nursing staff. A more attractive schedule increases morale while also reducing overtime and call-offs. At the same time, newly hired nurses need to understand the expectations regarding work hours, including weekend schedules, nights and holidays, in order to reduce dissatisfaction with the work schedule.

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