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Improving Nurse Retention & Job Satisfaction

What does your organization’s employee satisfaction survey really tell you about how staff feel about their roles/jobs?

The survey result graphs demonstrate areas that need improvement and more, but do they capture the authenticity and essence of how staff feel when they step onto the unit at each shift?

Although these surveys are an essential part of evaluating workforce satisfaction—and yes, some are required through a regulatory process—staff need and deserve more. How does the manager determine exactly what “more” is? How does the manager get that authentic feel, vibe, or sense of how staff really feel about their jobs?

What Does the “Evidence” Tell Us?

A recent systematic review of the literature related to nursing retention and job satisfaction is illuminating.

The key findings suggest that nurses will stay when:

  • The workplace culture and conditions meet their personal and professional needs.
  • Professional relationships are supportive, trusting, and enable them to feel safe and that they belong.
  • They are motivated to remain engaged and connected.
  • They can master the challenges of working in the current environment.
  • They perceive they can manage their personal stress and the emotional burdens contingent on caring for others.
  • When they are able to work autonomously and feel empowered.

It is also imperative that nurses are able to provide care corresponding to their professional values and that they have opportunities to grow professionally.

These are the factors that meet the requirements for job satisfaction and organizational commitment, and the review provides evidence that nurses stay when these conditions are obtainable at their workplace. The authors indicate that these factors can be described as “protective factors,” which are significant, pre-existing pull factors that protect and safeguard the intention to stay.

3 Ways to Impact Nursing Retention

  1. Listen. If staff tell you that a process is not working, don’t simply respond with excuses that it’s out of your control or that “it’s the policy.” Provide employees with a platform and an opportunity to research the issue, test it, and bring the results to administration for discussion. Then give credit to staff and show how their feedback can help improve the organization.
  2. Evaluate turnover. Do not ignore turnover by putting the blame on scheduling, etc.; and don’t ignore rumors that a member of staff is leaving. Approach that person before they turn in their notice and ask what you could do differently that would encourage them to stay. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. If someone does decide to leave, conduct an exit interview and uncover the real reason they’re leaving. Additionally, it’s helpful to identify the cost of your turnover and periodically share it with your staff. Ask them why they think you have the turnover you do and solicit ideas on how you might improve the numbers.
  3. Watch for low/poor morale red flags:
    • Negative attitude that lowers patient quality of care
    • Resentment towards coworkers
    • Talking about others negatively
    • Lack of attention to details
    • Increased absenteeism or tardiness

These are critical signs that someone is not engaged in their job and might be looking for something new. If you see a red flag, address it head-on and ask how you can help that individual find what they’re looking for in their role to get them back on track.

Nurses stay in roles where they feel valued, respected and appreciated. Make sure you’re not passing up the opportunity to bring each of your staff to their fullest potential with these tips.

Get more information with our Triage Competency Checklist.


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Adderton, J. 5 Ways Managers Can Make Nurses Feel Valued. Allnurses. 2019. Retrieved from:

Pressley C, Garside J. Safeguarding the retention of nurses: A systematic review on determinants of nurse's intentions to stay. Nurs Open. 2023 May;10(5):2842-2858. doi: 10.1002/nop2.1588. Epub. 2023 Jan 16. PMID: 36646646; PMCID: PMC10077373.



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