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What is your hospital doing to keep nurses happy?

With the current nurse shortage, it’s no surprise that hospitals should be doing all they can to keep their nurses happy.

Maintaining an environment where the nurse wants to work is critical for not only nurse retention, but also patient quality. The overall stress accompanied by an uncomfortable and disrespectful work environment can send nurses running for the door. The key is finding out what makes nurses happy enough to stay.

The Nursing Organizations Alliance developed a set of principles to help hospitals and other health care entities create positive work environments. More than 40 nurse organizations have endorsed these principles. So, what are you doing to keep your nurses happy?

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What do you do to combat physical nurse fatigue?

A recent survey by the American Nurses Association looked at the physical toll that being a nurse can impose on a person. Some of the more alarming things it found were that 80% of nurses say therey continue to work frequently even though they had neck, back or shoulder pain caused on the job and that 74% of respondents are concerened with the acute or chronic effects of stess and overwork and 62% were concerened with disabling muscoskeletal injury.

Of course the effects that fatigue can have on patient care are well documented, but it is still a challenge for many hospitals to find ways to reduce it for their staff.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this and what you do about it in your unit?  Take this poll to tell us what you think (pick all that apply).

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Our top 10 most popular healthcare staffing posts

top healthcare staffing articles Our top 10 most popular healthcare staffing posts

It’s years end coming up soon, so it seems like a good time to look at the most popular posts have been over the past year.

10. How are you dealing with a more diverse nurse population?

This article looked at the results of a nurse population study that had interesting results in relation to the amount of racial, gender and age diversity in the nurse population.

9. Easy ways for nurses to de-stress and avoid burnout

This post discusses an article that lists 22 ways for nurses to de-stress and prevent nurse burnout.

8. Full time nurse labor costs versus travel nurses

In this post we discussed the KPMG study that looked at the overall cost of full-time nurses and discussed their findings.

7. Overtime and hospital staff burnout

This post provides a list of resources to help Nurse Managers spot and respond to nurse staff burnout.

6. Mentoring Programs designed to keep nurses, young and old.

The subject of this post is about the value that putting a mentoring program in place can have on retaining nurses and improving patient care.

5. 14 questions to ask yourself about your nurse recruitment plan

This post lists 14 key questions that hospitals need to ask about their nurse recruitment plan in order to make improvements in their hiring.

4. Phone interview questions to make sure travel nurses will be a cultural fit

The purpose of this post is to list resources that Nurse Managers and Hospital Hiring Managers can use to ensure that the travel nurses they bring in are a good cultural fit at the hospital and in the unit.

3. Evaluating a Healthcare Staffing Company’s Cost

Here we explain the best way for hospitals to compare the costs of travel nursing companies they work with.

2. Build your best nursing unit

In this post we discuss things that Nurse Managers can do during tough economic times to get the most out of their units.

1. Improve your nursing staff morale

This post talks about our 7 Steps to Better Nursing Morale ebook, a poplar handbook we made on how Nurse Managers can improve the morale of nurses in their unit to prevent burnout.

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What hospital executives think of temporary nurse staffing

iStock 000005048392XSmall What hospital executives think of temporary nurse staffing
In a round up of a panel at this year’s recent Healthcare Staffing Summit three healthcare executives’ opinions on the use of temporary nurse staffing were discussed. Two of the three do use travel nurses and other temporary staffing while the third didn’t, but their concerns were interesting to hear.

From reading what they had to say it seems like there is still a sense of failure associated with being “forced” to rely on travel nursing companies to meet vacancies instead of seeing their use as part of an overall strategic staffing plan.

It was nice to see that the quality of travel nurses is n0t so much in question anymore, at least wth this group. Linda Aiken’s research into this pointed out that the quality of temporary nurses is not any less than permanent nurses at a facility and that is also what this group said they have seen.

They also discussed the KPMG study that looked at the perception that temporary nurses are more expensive than a staff nurse and how it opened their eyes to some cost factors they hadn’t considered. That is a good sign because the overall goal is having enough nurses to ensure patient care and having temporary nurses seen as an investement and not an expense is vital. Especially in light of the increased demand for nurses that healthcare reform is going to result in, which they also discussed.

To read the whole discussion click here: Healthcare Staffing Leaders Speak Out

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A good nurse job description is the main ingredient in finding the perfect match

iStock 000011241125XSmall A good nurse job description is the main ingredient in finding the perfect match

If you are using a Vendor Management System (VMS) to manage your nurse staffing needs don’t forget one of the main ingredients in hiring qualified nurses, finding the perfect (or as close as you can get) match. When working with a VMS this can be difficult because you are most likely dealing with the need to hire a lot of nurses and through most VMSs, travel nursing companies are not able to talk to you directly about your needs.

Without this kind of open communication with staffing agencies it is of utmost importance that you write thorough and detailed job descriptions. If this is overlooked and a bad match is made then the ramifications can be costly and time consuming. You may luck out and the nurse is a rock star, however you may find that she is just not a good fit, so much so that she has to be let go. I’m sure you already know or can imagine what kind of headache results from that scenario.

So the best way to get the most out of any VMS you work with is to take the time to create excellent job descriptions. Here are some resources to help you do that:

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Easy ways for nurses to de-stress and avoid burnout

iStock 000015235002XSmall Easy ways for nurses to de stress and avoid burnout
It’s no secret or any great big surprise that nurses deal with a lot of stress on the job. And like in any job, a stressed worker is not a good worker. When the care of patients is involved it is even more critical for nurses and their managers to find ways to relieve that stress.

Here is a great article on 22 ways for nurses to de-stress with ideas like doing something you did all the time as a kid, visiting the shooting range or get a free or discounted massage.

There more are easy, fun ways and inexpensive ways to unwind that can help the nurses in your hospital to recharge in the article so give it a read if the stress level in your unit needs to come down.

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7 must have traits for travel nurses at your hospital

iStock 000000931912XSmall 7 must have traits for travel nurses at your hospital

When using temporary nursing agencies as part of your hospital’s staffing strategy it is important to know what you are looking for in a travel nurse. This may seem obvious, but the traits you are going to look for in a travel nurse are not necessarily going to be the same ones you look for when hiring a full-time, permanent nurse. Of course many things will overlap but some other areas you need to look for excellence for in a travel nurse include:

Your Hospital’s Travel Nurses Need to be Adaptable

When hiring a travel nurse it is extremely important to only select those that have shown they have an ability to go into new situations and acclimate themselves quickly. Orientation for travel nurses is historically and with understandable reason very short so getting up to speed quickly is a skill that all travel nurses have.

Your Hospital’s Travel Nurses Need to Have Organizational Skills

A travel nurse that is well organized is going to be an advantage to your hospital for two main reasons. First off travel nursing requires a lot of paperwork to get started with an agency and the better they are at taking care of this the more you can depend on the fact that there will not be any start issues. Second a nurse who is organized in their personal lives is not only going to be more focused at work, but is also much more likely to carry that organization over to their work.

Your Hospital’s Travel Nurses Need to Have Communication Skills

This one is fairly obvious, nurses have to be good communicators or else a patent’s safety can be at risk. However in the case of travel nurses this is even more critical as they will be coming into a new situation with new people and will need to quickly get over apprehension or awkwardness in dealing with new people, be it co-workers, doctors or managers.

Your Hospital’s Travel Nurses Need to be Eager

While it is expected that travel nurses have great clinical skills, travel nursing also presents a great learning opportunity for nurses to be exposed to new medical practices and ways of doing things. That is why it is important to hire travel nurses who are eager to embrace these learning opportunities.

Your Hospital’s Travel Nurses Need to Have Resiliency

Aside from the stress of simply being a nurse, there is a lot of stress that can occur when changing hospitals every 3 to 6 months so finding a nurse who lets that stress roll off her back is one of the best ways to find an awesome travel nurse.

Your Hospital’s Travel Nurses Need to be Hard Workers

Again this one may seem obvious, but it is important to find nurses who are not afraid to go the extra mile. Travel nurses need to be self-motivated individuals who put in the work, simply for the intrinsic rewards of doing it and the sake of the patient, not because they expect anything extra in return.

Your Hospital’s Travel Nurses Need to be Dependable

Although when you work with a top-rated travel nursing company it shouldn’t be, hiring a travel nurse can still be a little leap of faith. Will they show up the first day? On-time? Every day they are scheduled? So it is vitally important that you get a sense for how dependable the nurse is during the interview process so you can remove any doubt.

Finding these traits in travel nurses starts with working with a thorough travel nurisng comapny and interviewing well. Here are some tips to help you do both:

Tips for interviewing travel candidates

Time to examine your healthcare staffing companies

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Make your travel nurses feel welcome

iStock 000004526795XSmall Make your travel nurses feel welcomeRecent news and research has shown that travel nursing is steadily returning to pre-recession levels, which means more and more your hospital will be able to be less choosy and in a more competitive mode to get the best travel nurses. This makes it important for you to make a good impression on them as they arrive and work for you. Word spread fasts in the traveler world about what hospitals are travel nurse friendly. So what can you do?

Well one easy thing to do is simply provide a welcome package for your travelers. This will make them feel more at home and welcomed at the same time. Here are just some ideas for things you could include in a welcome package:

  • A gift certificate to a nice local restaurant
  • A city coupon book
  • Some branded gifts like notepads, t-shirts, ink pens, etc.
  • Food from a local vendor
  • Put it all in a branded bag
  • A traveler version of your hospital orientation handbook

The key is that these do not have to be expensive items and the main goal is to look at using travel nurses as part of your overall nurse hiring strategy, not just as a reaction to unplanned need.

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14 questions to ask yourself about your nurse recruitment plan

iStock 000016333259XSmall 300x199 14 questions to ask yourself about your nurse recruitment planWhy is it important for your hospital to have a nurse recruitment plan?

  1. It will provide you with a clear picture of the nurse candidate pool in your community
  2. It will give you a chance to evaluate your efforts and determine areas where more money, manpower or ingenuity is required
  3. It lets you establish goals to ascertain how successful your recruiting efforts have been
  4. It will let you see if it is it recruitment or the closing of the hire that is the problem
  5. It will give you quantifiable results you can use to argue the case for more resources to improve your recruiting effectiveness

These questions will help you evaluate your current nurse recruitment plan or establish one if you don’t currently have one in place.

  1. What were your best sources of new hires last year? You are tracking this right?
  2. How effective are your marketing efforts? Which media outlets brought you the best NOI (Nurse on Investment)? Move your budget to focus on only the top performing media avenues for you.
  3. Are job fairs and conferences paying off? How many hires or candidates did they result in? Again only go to those that are performing well and save the expense and manpower of attending those that don’t return on your investment. Also make sure you are utilizing them to their fullest by having nurse managers attend so that interviews and employment offers (assuming qualifying references, health screening, and credentialing verification will be done first of course) can be made on the spot.
  4. How many of your new nurses are coming from your employee referral program? This should be a fairly high number (between 40-60%). If it’s not then consider revamping the program by considering things like offering bonuses to employees and overall just making it more visible to your nurses and emphasize it weekly if not daily.
  5. Take a look at the application process at your hospital. How fast are candidates contacted after they apply? How often are they communicated with?
  6. What about walk-in candidates? Are they sent to an actual nurse recruiter or HR manager who can interview them on the spot? Or at the least answer their questions and arrange for a future interview?
  7. How long does it take to get a new nurse working after she has taken the job? Does that time-frame seem reasonable? What can be done to make it faster?
  8. What is your college outreach program? Do you have regular speaking engagements with the colleges and universities in the area? Do you take part in career days and make sure your positions are posted on their job boards?
  9. Do you have conversations with the local colleges and universities to help them develop curriculum that will deliver more qualified candidates to you?
  10. When is the last time you evaluated the current nurse market in your city and surrounding areas?
  11. When is the last time you looked at your competition who are also looking for nurse candidates in the community?
  12. Are you interviewing those that have turned down a position to find out why? You may find that it they are turning you down because of something that can be easily fixed orchanged or that you need to look at more impactful items like PTO, insurance or pay.
  13. Are you conducting follow-up new hire interviews? 90 days? 6 months?
  14. What about when nurses leave? Are you doing exit interviews to find out why?

Take these 14 items into consideration when looking at your hiring plan to help you evaluate your exisitng nurse recruitment plan or when starting a brand new one.

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Full time nurse labor costs versus travel nurses

iStock 000015338069XSmall Full time nurse labor costs versus travel nursesA recent study done by KPMG looked at hospital labor costs. More specifically it looked at the overall cost of full-time nurses and the surveyed hospitals use of per diem or traveling nurses.

Here is a summary of their findings:

  • All-in cost of full-time hospital nurses is an average $98 thousand per year (or $45 per hour). This assumes 100 percent productivity.
  • Base wages on average represent 75 percent of fully loaded payroll and 57 percent of all-in cost. The remaining balance is made up of things like payroll tax, shift differential costs, overtime pay, holiday pay and paid time off, bonuses, pension contributions, and other costs.
  • Besides base wages, other elements of the all-in cost include payroll tax, shift differential, and insurance, as well as costs such as holiday/paid time off, overtime, and training.
  • There seem to be important additional “hidden” costs with nursing labor that are related to full-time nurses, but are difficult to quantify.
  • About 66% of survey respondents use of traveling or per diem nurses currently with the main reasons being the quality of the travel nurses available and supply and demand.
  • A 90:10 ratio of full-time employed nurses to traveling or other temporary nurses was seen as the ideal ratio on average.

You can read the press release about it here or see all the results here.

Their findings further prove the value of the Staffing Cost Calculator that we developed here at Medical Solutions over two years ago. Our tool is an interactive way to directly compare the costs of a full-time nurse versus a traveler and also takes into consideration factors like nurse to patient ratios and the costs of nurse burnout.

You can download the Staffing Cost Calculator here. If you have questions contact your Medical Solutions Client Manager at 1-866-633-3548.

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