Patient experience happens during multiple moments of truth, but none are as vital as those happening at the bedside between the patient and nurse.
Not long ago, I interviewed members of the senior executive team and the CFO commented, “The nurses are whining again”. Upon further discussion, I learned he was talking about the reaction to his mandate to eliminate travelers. There were several head nods and some chuckles.
I completely understand the bottom-line impact of using travelers. I also understand the bottom-line effect of burnout and turnover, not to mention quality, safety, and service.
As my team drilled down into the cultural issues, we learned that nurses didn’t feel valued or heard. Several expressed they planned to resign and actively looked for new opportunities. One of them commented, “I’ve been here 12 years and would prefer to stay, but staying is costing me. Those of us who stay are rewarded with mandatory overtime, more demanding assignments, and a steady stream of new hires that we are expected to train. We’re exhausted.” She went on to say, “Cutting travelers all at once will drown those of us who stay.”
Engagement, feeling valued, and work/life balance are all essential to retention. There isn’t one magic bullet to fix the budget, and there isn’t one for fixing retention either. What I do know is that when nurses complain– listen. They want to be part of the solution, and chances are, their ideas have merit. Give them a voice and nurture a culture that truly values its workforce.
They’re not whining, and they’re giving a warning sign that things need to change for them, for the good of the patients, and for the system.