With Nursing Shortages, How are You Ensuring Retention?

With Nursing Shortages, How are You Ensuring Retention?


For years, healthcare leaders have been concerned about a nursing shortage, but COVID has brought the deficit to critical levels. In a recent article in the New York Times[i], author Andrew Jacobs sheds light on the crisis, sharing first-hand stories from hospital leaders.

There are things healthcare leaders can do to make nurses’ lives a bit easier.

While new nurses can’t be manufactured, there are things healthcare leaders can do to make nurses’ lives a bit easier.


Be Present


First and foremost, be present. Since the onset of COVID, there has been a drumbeat message from healthcare executives, “We’re all in this together.” Before uttering that phrase, ask yourself what it means, and if it is true. To many nurses, it means hands-on help with non-nursing tasks. To others it means seeing their executives in-person.

I was recently coaching a nurse leader who talked about working 60 – 80 hours a week for months and never once seeing a hospital executive make an appearance on her unit. “I felt abandoned and like they were just paying lip service to us. And make no mistake, my staff noticed,” she said. “I know it has to be hard for them to see the struggles, but don’t hide. We need to see you and know that you see us,” she added. This is a prime example of how important it is for leaders to acknowledge their employee’s part in the organization’s success.

Over the past year, I have heard wonderful stories about how non-nursing staff have been cross-trained to support nurses on inpatient units. This takes creativity and tenacity. While there is no one specific answer, some organizations like Beth Israel Deaconess Memorial Health Center[ii] found creative solutions to offer greater support.




Communication with staff must be authentic, transparent, and vulnerable in order to build trust. Don’t confuse email with communication. Nurses are buried in computers all day long but in medical records, not emails. They are stretched thin. Show up and use huddles whenever possible.

Meanwhile, don’t lose focus on culture. Culture and leadership are pivotal to retention. In the face of a growing shortage, it makes sense to keep the staff you have.


Want to learn more about how to improve retention? Have managers, supervisors and directors who would like to sharpen their leadership skills? Enroll in Be the Leader Nobody Wants to Leave. The next cohort begins soon.


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