In the United States, nursing shortages are becoming a national crisis, with more and more trained registered nurses leaving their jobs — or the field entirely — every month. A 2022 survey conducted by staffing firm Incredible Health reported that one-third of nurses plan to leave their jobs by the end of the year.
The mass resignation of nurses started shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, burnout rates for nurses have increased at record rates, partly due to the processing of trauma from these unprecedented events. Additionally, poor working conditions, reduced pay, and a lack of benefits have all played a role in this nursing shortage crisis.
Surprisingly, the desire for growth opportunities and education is also one of the driving factors behind resignations. To increase nurse retention, providing more opportunities for professional development may help immensely.
We’ll cover the importance of education in mitigating the nursing shortage crisis and how this simple investment in employees can go a long way.
The Current State of the Nursing Shortage Crisis
The nursing shortage crisis has affected every region in the United States, so much so that state governors have called the National Guard to assist hospitals numerous times. And this year alone, an estimated one in six U.S. hospitals reported critical nursing shortages.
Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported its estimation of a shortage of a million nurses by 2026. The pandemic is primarily to blame for this reality, which is evident in a 2020 survey of 12,600 nurses on the front lines of COVID-19. This study found that 13% of nurses have suffered pandemic-related psychological trauma. Underpaid salaries, long working hours, and the lack of growth opportunities have made these hardships not worth it, leading many to resign.
At the same time, the demand for healthcare has increased, largely due to the spread of COVID-19. With fewer nurses, patients have less access to potentially life-saving care. Thus, this healthcare crisis is affecting both nurses and the general public. Hospitals are facing high turnover costs associated with low employee retention, including the costs of hiring, onboarding, and training new nurses. Higher employment costs can also lead to budget cuts in other departments, continuing the cycle of resignations.
Something must be done to increase the well-being of nurses and improve retention. While increased wages may be the first solution that comes to mind, education and growth opportunities are key elements in increasing nurse retention that should be discussed more often.
Providing opportunities for growth may be the solution to preventing mass resignation. Rather than feeling stuck in one’s role with no end in sight, opening the doors to new opportunities motivates nurses to continue. Plus, investing in education is a realistic goal for most hospitals.
How Can Education Increase Nurse Retention?
Investing in education may be the key to increasing nurse retention, but why? While the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are viewed as the ultimate reason for a large percentage of these resignations, a surprisingly common reason for quitting is the lack of growth opportunities.
Many employers do not offer clear routes to personal and professional growth, leaving employees feeling stuck in their roles. According to a LinkedIn survey, 94% of employees say they would stay with a company if it provided learning and development opportunities.
Despite this demand, hospitals are spending less and less on education and professional development. Gallup, Inc. Healthcare Portfolio Manager Mike Ellrich states, “Throughout the thick of COVID, health systems refocused all their energy and staff on fighting the pandemic … That, along with fewer dollars being available because elective surgery revenue was down much of 2020 and 2021, created the perfect storm when it came to deferring people development.”
Due to unprecedented events, professional development has moved the back burner, but employers now have the chance to prioritize their nurses’ career growth. Employer-provided education has numerous benefits for nurses. These professional development opportunities may include training sessions, workshops, courses, and more.
Learning and professional development opportunities help nurses improve their job skills, learn new skills, renew their passion for their work, and increase confidence in their abilities. They can then return to their roles with greater motivation, improving productivity and work quality. Higher quality work is particularly beneficial in the public health industry, as it means people receive better healthcare. Seeing the rewards of their work firsthand further increases employee confidence, helping to break the burnout cycle.
Additionally, investing in nurse education helps nurses grow into higher-paying roles. If nurses receive the tools to excel in their roles, they are more likely to receive promotions, especially as long-term employees. To retain employees, employers must make space for them to explore their full potential. This might mean providing a path for continuing higher education, prioritizing company training and workshops, and assisting with credentialing and certification processes. If employers want nurses to commit long-term to their roles, they need to show nurses that they are also committed to their careers.
Investing in education benefits employees and employers by reducing the high cost of employee turnover and cultivating a more robust workforce. Employers may not be able to control the daily challenges nurses face, but they can control the available tools for success.
Education should be a greater priority for employers seeking to improve nurse retention. Let’s discuss why this is a smart, simple, yet effective investment.
Investing in Education Has a High ROI
While prioritizing educational opportunities for nurses is a financial investment for employers, it is an investment with a high ROI (return on investment). With this investment, employees are more likely to stay with their companies long-term. Increased employee retention can save hospitals millions of dollars annually, creating a financial return that well-exceeds initial investments.
To be precise, the average cost of turnover for one registered nurse is $40,048, ranging from $28,400 to $51,700. And yes, that is simply the cost per each nurse’s resignation. With the mass resignation of nearly one-third of nurses nationwide, this costly turnover is adding up fast. One hospital may lose anywhere from $3.6 million to $6.5 million per year from RN turnover.
Nurse education can save millions, and the cost to implement professional development programs is astronomically lower than losing valuable employees. Additionally, hospitals save an average of $270,800 per year for each percentage lowered in RN turnover rates. The potential hundreds of dollars saved make nurse education a sound investment for any hospital.
A caveat of employer-provided professional development programs is that nurses will grow in their skills and abilities, potentially becoming eligible for higher-paying roles or raises. While some employers might be wary of breaking their budgets, it’s important to keep in mind that retaining a nurse, even at a higher salary, is much less expensive than hiring a new one. The long-term outcome of raising well-deserved wages for nurses can be viewed as a financial gain for hospitals.
Additionally, employers see a quick return on investment in education through their nurses’ increased productivity and quality of work. Increased worker productivity translates to increased business revenue, but it also means patients are better and more efficiently cared for.
Essentially, higher-skilled nurses make for a better and more profitable healthcare organization. Plus, improving your nurses’ skills can be done in as little as a daylong training course that brings lifelong benefits.
Not only does investing in education for current employees bring immediate and long-term rewards, but it also helps hospitals attract new top candidates. Job-seekers always consider employer-provided benefits when deciding between job offers, and offering professional development makes your benefits packages more competitive and helps attract talented, motivated nurses, furthering the skill level of your workforce. Attracting more workers also prevents staffing shortages, another driver of nurse burnout.
This simple investment in education and professional development opportunities brings a major ROI in numerous ways. Education helps prevent the slippery slope of nurse burnout, increases confidence and capability, improves mental health, and cultivates a positive work environment to increase valuable employee retention.
Education Is Easier To Address
Educational programs are also much easier to implement than other retention strategies. Nurses face numerous setbacks, such as long hours, high stress, and budget cuts. Most hospitals cannot afford to address all of these issues, but they can easily manage the need for more professional development and educational opportunities.
Overall, addressing education is much easier than addressing more complicated environmental or HR factors. Getting internal support for implementing growth opportunities and programs is also easier, as the benefits for all parties are clear.
Prioritizing education is an excellent way to increase retention without changing benefits packages or compensation, which many hospitals cannot afford. Professional development programs are also much more economical than addressing other issues, making this a well-rounded strategy for change.
Additionally, there are multiple options for nurse education that can be tailored to each hospital’s individual needs. Employers even have the opportunity to provide professional development programs tailored to each nurse’s unique needs and goals. The options for beneficial learning and development programs are endless: virtual and in-person, short and long-term, and formal and informal courses, training, webinars, seminars, and conferences.
How To Bring a Focus on Nursing Education
The benefits of nursing education are clear, but how can you shift your focus to prioritize it? The first step is getting management on board by identifying and documenting the need for improved education. You can document this need by surveying nurses, which will likely reveal a clear demand for increased development and growth opportunities.
Employers should also note that just because their organizations claim to have opportunities for advancement, nurses may still feel inadequate — or they may even be unaware of them. This is why completing surveys is essential to provide insight into how nurses view the current state of growth programs.
Additionally, it’s vital to demonstrate the actual cost of employee turnover. You can outline the financial gains of implementing educational programs, including less employee turnover, increased productivity, and higher quality of work. You may also research success stories from hospitals that have invested in education to back your claim. With the above evidence, management can better understand this investment’s tangible benefits.
When it comes to implementing learning and professional development opportunities, there are numerous methods of doing so. Here are some of the ways hospitals can implement nursing education and professional development:
Mentorship is an impactful experience, allowing employees to grow professionally through insight, camaraderie, and career advice. Mentors can directly help employees grow in their career paths and become stronger in their roles. With tenured employees as mentors, this program may cost little to nothing to implement.
Investing in online courses is another way to implement nursing education. Online courses help employees learn new knowledge so they can feel confident in their work abilities.
There are a variety of organizations offering certified public health courses for every type of nurse. Caduceus International Publishing offers award-winning health science courses on human nutrition, medical terminology, sports nutrition, and much more to take health professionals’ knowledge to the next level.
Training and Workshops
Scheduling individual, team, or company-wide training and workshop days is a simple yet effective professional development method. Employers can create their own training methods or hire experienced workshop leaders to facilitate training on specific skills, leadership, company culture, and more.
Virtual events like webinars, online workshops, and more can be very beneficial to employees. Events may allow employees to network with others in their industry, learn new information, and increase morale.
Inviting guest speakers to present to your employees can be a valuable tool for development. Guest speakers can help employees feel inspired, gain motivation, see a different perspective, and seek advice.
Books and Materials
In addition to or instead of courses, employers may provide books and learning materials to educate their employees. This could include textbooks, course materials, workbooks, research papers, and more to refresh current knowledge or teach new findings. With increased knowledge, employees can feel more confident in their abilities to do good work.
Conferences, whether online or in-person, provide numerous opportunities for professional growth. Not only can employees hear from industry leaders, but they also have the chance to network with other professionals.
Additionally, presenting at conferences is an excellent mode of professional development. It allows individuals to hone their public speaking skills and put themselves out there for potential recognition.
Interoffice presentations involve one team presenting statuses, information, or findings to a separate team they may not communicate with often. Creating space for this collaboration can benefit all parties involved by providing new knowledge, perspectives, and advice.
Motivational interviewing involves a leader meeting with an employee to discuss their needs, goals, and strategies for growth. This allows nurses to express concerns without judgment and builds trust between both parties. Motivational interviewing not only addresses potential changes but also helps to create a better work environment for everyone.
Allowing for the distribution of power in an organization, such as forming leadership and board roles for nurses, helps create a better company culture. Leadership roles also teach valuable skills and lessons, aiding professional and personal development. Administration can also put nurses on the path to career growth, further boosting morale.
Certification and Licensure Assistance
Helping and encouraging nurses to obtain certificates and necessary licenses is a great way to assist with professional development. This may include paying for courses and fees, partnering with a certificate-providing organization, or allowing nurses to use paid time off (PTO) to attend classes and tests. Obtaining new credentials is a valuable asset to a nurse’s career, as it can help them reach higher-paying jobs.
Subsidizing continued education for nurses may be a significant investment, such as for certain degrees. However, the return in the form of retaining long-term employees can make it worth it. Subsidizations may also include partial scholarships, job protection, and PTO to pursue studies.
When implementing nursing education programs, an employer must tailor the policy to serve the hospital’s and nurses’ goals. Perhaps your educational and developmental programs contain multiple of the above elements, or maybe they are tailored to each nurse’s aspirations and needs.
Whichever route you choose, furthering nurse education and career growth brings numerous benefits to nurses and hospitals, helping increase nurse retention in the long run.
Invest in Nurses With Caduceus International Publishing
Making it a priority to invest in education opens up a career path for your nurses and demonstrates you are invested in their long-term careers. This mutual investment can help immensely with retaining valuable long-term employees, which is becoming increasingly important as the nursing shortage continues to grow.
A simple yet powerful form of professional development in the public health industry is taking online courses to expand one’s knowledge. Caduceus International Publishing provides online health science courses on a variety of topics to increase education for nurses, empowering them to feel more confident in their roles.
Contact us today to learn more about our award-winning courses and how we can help your employees thrive.