Collaborating with health care systems to reduce nursing turnover

Dean's Blog |
Judith Karshmer

In our ongoing mission to prepare the next generation of nursing professionals, a crucial challenge persists: high turnover. We are all familiar with the various reasons for this including burnout and inadequate work-life balance. As educators and leaders in nursing education, we have a unique opportunity – and indeed, a responsibility – to collaborate with our health care partners in cultivating environments where nurses can thrive both professionally and personally.
The core issues, burnout and stress, exacerbated by long hours and high-pressure environments are not new in nursing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted these challenges, underscoring the need for sustainable work practices. It's not just about retaining nurses; it's about ensuring their well-being. 

The good news is that there are solutions! Some can be done within our own college’s and departments while others will require collaboration with our clinical partners and the field as a whole. Here are several ways we can move the needle.

First, by embedding concepts of self-care and stress management in our curricula, if you haven’t yet. This can empower future nurses with tools to maintain balance. Of course modeling this as faculty and leaders is key. This training might include mindfulness techniques, time management strategies, a focus on healthy eating, and tools for mental health support.
We all know how critical it is to establish regular, open communication channels with partner facilities to explore developing policies that support nurses' well-being. Of particular merit are flexible scheduling, overall health promotion days, and support for continuing education. This generation of nurses have listened – they want work-life balance. Flexible work schedules can reduce burnout and accommodate the diverse needs of the nursing workforce, from young parents to those pursuing further education or managing health issues. Developing “in-house” travelers might be an attractive option under some conditions.
Another way to partner with health systems, given our educational expertise is to provide opportunities for professional growth. This not only aids in retention, but also helps nurses feel valued and engaged in their work. It’s also a way to promote overall advancement of the profession. Working with those same partner’s there might be opportunity to develop mentorship programs. These can provide new nurses with support and guidance, easing their transition into the demanding hospital environment. It also opens the door to recruiting preceptors and faculty.
Finally, we can proactively engage in research with hospital partners to identify less known or new factors contributing to burnout and turnover. This data can drive the development of targeted interventions and help any of the suggestions above be even more beneficial. Magnet hospitals are incredibly supportive of nursing research, but all too often they don’t have the personnel or research expertise to launch a research agenda on their own. This is a natural partnership with tremendous outcomes.                    
The bottom line is that our role as educators extends beyond the classroom. By working collaboratively with each other and health systems, we can help shape the future of the nursing profession, creating a healthier, more sustainable work environment. This partnership is not just beneficial, but necessary for the longevity and prosperity of the nursing field.
The nurses we educate today will become the leaders of tomorrow. Our actions can set a precedent for a healthier work-life balance in nursing, ultimately leading to improved patient care, better clinical partnership relationships, and a stronger health care system.