Hospitals Improve Work Conditions To Recruit, Retain Nurse Personnel
Hospitals across the U.S. have begun addressing nursing shortages "by introducing technology to dramatically reduce paperwork, offering more flexible hours, reducing caseloads, paying for advanced training and giving [nurses] more authority" instead of using financial incentives to lure nurses, the Washington Post reports.
According to the Post, five years ago hospitals "waged intense bidding wars" to fill vacant nursing positions, including offering "huge signing bonuses and even sport-utility vehicles and vacations to the Bahamas." However, such practices often exacerbated turnover because nurses would stay long enough to earn the incentives and then move to other hospitals with better incentives.
The high cost of losing nurses is encouraging hospitals to invest in the new practices.
According to Pat Rutherford, vice president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, it costs between $50,000 and $100,000 to replace one nurse, not including salary, because of overtime payments, payments to temporary nurses and the recruiting and training process for a permanent replacement.
In 2007, the number of open nursing jobs in the U.S. reached 116,000.
Although the vacancy rate has dropped slightly because of the "dismal economy," hospitals are "bracing for 2025 when retirements and other factors are projected to push the number of open jobs to as many as one million, just when Baby Boomers will require more nursing care," the Post reports.
Peter Buerhaus, director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies at Vanderbilt University, said, "We're in a big, big world of hurt coming up" as a nurse shortage could jeopardize hospital care. He added, "This would be lights out for many (hospital) organizations" (Haynes, Washington Post, 9/14).