The global nursing shortage garnered attention at the spike of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ever since, nursing engagement has become a focus of healthcare providers across the United States. This attention is warranted, as evidenced by a March 2022 study by the American Nurses Foundation, which found that 60% of acute care nurses report feeling burnt out and 52% were considering leaving their nursing position at the time of the study.
Nurses cited insufficient staffing, work negativity and inability to deliver quality care as driving factors of their burnout. Now consider that the U.S. Census Bureau reported that by 2034, there will be 77 million people over the age of 65, leading to increased demand for healthcare services for older individuals with chronic diseases and comorbidities. It’s clear to see why engaging the nursing workforce is a worthwhile endeavor.
Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Cape Coral in southwest Florida secured a 92% overall favorability score on the Company’s annual employee engagement survey in 2022, earning a spot in the top 10 most engaged Encompass Health hospitals in the country. When asked how the hospital achieved these results and retained staff, four key drivers of nursing engagement came to light.
Help Nurses Remember Their ‘Why’
Encompass Health Cape Coral scored 94% favorability on the survey prompt, “My work gives me a feeling of personal fulfillment.” The hospital’s chief nursing officer, Dana Kocsis, knows that nurses who are passionate about their work will consistently deliver patient care that exceeds expectations and are more likely to envision their professional future in the industry.
Among the most common symptoms of occupational burnout (cynicism, lack of enthusiasm, etc.) is the feeling of being disconnected from the impact of your work. Under stress, even the most passionate nurses can forget why they chose this career and lose sight of the copious career opportunities nurses can take advantage of.
When checking in with your nurses, consider asking questions that tie back to personal engagement.
- Passion: Why did you become a nurse? What is the most fulfilling part of your daily work?
- Growth: What excites you about the future of your nursing career? Do you aspire to a leadership position? Have you considered a new nursing certification or clinical specialty in risk management, wound care, case management, etc.? Remind them of the possibilities.
- Strengths: What is your greatest strength as a nurse (empathy, mentoring, problem-solving, flexibility)? Remind them how valuable each unique strength is.
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Position Nurses as Strategic Partners for Other Disciplines
At our Encompass Health rehabilitation hospitals, patients receive at least three hours of therapy five days a week, working with a team of speech, occupational and physical therapists, physicians, dieticians, onsite pharmacists and clinical technicians. Nurses are a critical part of this interdisciplinary team, as they can drastically influence patients’ healthcare outcomes.
Leaders at Encompass Health Cape Coral kick off new hire orientation by emphasizing the importance of every role in the hospital. No one can succeed unless everyone succeeds. Without nurses leading patient assessments and ensuring they are medically stable, for example, the patient cannot participate in therapy. Encompass Health Cape Coral scored highest on survey topics related to teamwork and work environment, indicating a strong culture of collaboration between departments and disciplines.
“During the interview process, we talk at length about teamwork and mutual respect,” said Mary Hendrickson, the hospital’s human resources director. “We feel strongly that if we value the contributions of our teammates, that will translate into great patient care.”
Know What It’s Like on the Nursing Floor
It’s important to have leaders who are visible and accessible, ensuring employees don’t feel separate from leadership. The hospital’s leadership team hosts lunch with new employees on their first day, performs frequent employee rounding and focus groups, and maintains an open-door policy.
“At the 90-day mark, our chief nursing officer performs stay interviews with new nurses,” Hendrickson said. “She asks employees what a great day at Encompass Health looks like and identifies the roadblocks that can hinder a great day.”
Kocsis spends time in patient rooms herself, especially on days when there is high call-light volume. This practice keeps her abreast of challenges that may exist on the nursing floor, even if those concerns haven’t been verbalized yet. It can also help the team find solutions to budding issues before they escalate.
“If the hospital is underperforming on a specific quality indicator, such as pain re-assessment charting, we want to investigate why,” Kocsis said. “Sometimes that means partnering with our hospital educator and standing in the shoes of our nurses so I can understand which parts of the charting process are burdensome. I don’t ask my staff to do something I wouldn’t do, so we’re always looking at how efficiency can be improved. It’s a learning environment where we solve problems together.”
Ensure Nurses Are Stakeholders
The term “stakeholder” was originally defined by the Stanford Research Institute as “those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist.” In healthcare, your stakeholders are your investors, suppliers, patients, and most importantly, employees.
Every decision made by the company has the potential to affect employees’ workload, job security, health and safety, salary and overall job satisfaction. It’s important to give nurses a voice in the workplace by soliciting feedback often and acting on their recommendations whenever possible.
Kocsis’ team heard feedback about the struggle to achieve a healthy work-life balance amidst ever-changing schedules, so they made an action plan. The nursing department implemented self-scheduling and now uses a preference sheet, which shows shift preferences to help nursing leaders balance the schedule and accommodate requests. This is just one example of effective action planning.
Encompass Health Cape Coral scored 94% favorability on the survey prompt, “I am proud to work at this company”, indicating staff feel connected to the company’s purpose and understand their personal impact. Ample feedback loops, thoughtful leadership and a focused effort on meaningful engagement—especially among nurses—are surely key to the hospital’s success.
The content of this site is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions or treatments.