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What is nurse retention, and what are the strategies for it?

A nurse on the stairs with healthcare workers in the background

Top 8 nurse retention strategies in the UK to combat turnover

It is not uncommon for a nurse to have thoughts about leaving their profession, as most nurses in the UK have to face issues related to the shortage of nursing staff, long hours of work, fewer pay rates, and a lack of support from management. The nursing staff is a battle for both NHS and private healthcare agencies, while nurses are forever battling with burnout, career ambitions, more nurses nearing retirement, pay disputes, and most recently, the stress placed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A change in the healthcare system of the UK has become necessary to help and support nursing staff and improve retention rates. If the healthcare system proceeds to use the same strategies as in the past, many more nursing professionals will leave the field, leaving the UK's care system in a dire state. 

In this article, we will look into the various strategies to improve nurse and healthcare staff retention in the UK. 

The retention of nurses and midwives in all facilities is important to improve patient care and outcomes. Nurses and midwives are the backbones of most of the healthcare system, as they ensure safe and quality healthcare services

Over the last decade, the demand for nurses and midwives on a global and national level has increased. This shows the increase in the number of people needing healthcare in the UK. As the country has the largest nursing workforce, it becomes imperative to retain highly skilled care professionals. Here are some of the ways to support nurses, thereby strategically focusing on lowering stress and improving retention rates. 

1. Advocate for the changes you want: 

Nurse professionals are known for patient and community advocacy. The same skill and passion to advocate for the nursing profession must be applied to bring about effective changes in the healthcare system. One way to advocate for change is to propose and promote a nurse ally into the healthcare system. Their main responsibility will be to advocate for nursing staff in the UK and bring about changes and improvements in working conditions. In some cases, allies are used to address the inequality and healthcare disparities that exist among various groups. However, a nurse in the UK also experiences disparity in workplace environments, such as representation in nursing and healthcare, leading to stress and burnout. 

2. Maintain the nurse-to-patient ratio:

The biggest issue currently facing the UK healthcare system is maintaining a safe nurse-to-patient ratio. For better care and improved patient outcomes, a nurse needs more time with each patient. It will take some time to fill the nursing staff shortage in the UK; however, healthcare organisations should design creative strategies to attract more staff. This will help to overcome the shortage of staffing to a large extent and reduce the pressure on the current staff. 

3. NHS pay vs. private/agency nursing 

Nursing pay will always be a source of contention among nurses, and the struggle between NHS and private sector pay is ongoing. The Agenda for Change is both a positive and negative initiative. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the nurse's pay has yet again come into the limelight. The UK healthcare system has realised that nurses are a highly skilled workforce and that their retention is important, especially during a crisis where their lives are put at risk on a daily basis. They were rewarded with a pay raise to match their efforts during what is undoubtedly an unprecedented time. However, there are different NHS pay rates for the same bands within nursing; for example, London weighting means an average £5,000 higher pay rate than those working in other parts of the country. 

4. Offer better benefits:

Increasing registered nurse (RN) benefits is another strategic way to improve the retention rates of experienced nurses in the UK. While money won't solve the nursing shortage, it can attract more nurses into the field. Most full-time nurses have a benefits package that includes paid time off for vacation and sick leave, but they lack other benefits. Hospitals and healthcare establishments in the UK should consider offering other benefits for the retention of their nursing workers without affecting the operation costs of the organisation. These may include flexible scheduling, the provision of training, and certification reimbursement. 

5. Increase access to learning and development: 

Nursing is a versatile profession in the UK, offering a nurse many options to use their skills while still being in healthcare. When organisations support those moves through education and nursing mentorship, they improve their nurse retention rate. The organisation can also provide periodic training to help their nurse staff improve and advance in their careers, which will attract new workers and help in the retention of the existing ones. 

6. Offer emotional wellness and mental health training to nurses:

Mental health and wellness are one of the major issues faced by nurses in the UK. Prioritising the mental health and wellness of nurses in the healthcare setting will help improve patient outcomes. The mental health of a nurse can be highly affected when there is a health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or during continuous staffing shortages, leading to low staff retention and high nurse burnout rates. These can raise staffing shortages further, creating a vicious cycle. In order to improve nurse retention, organisations must develop interventions that support their staff's mental health and well-being. 

7. Address nurse bullying: 

One of the barriers to nurse retention is an unsafe work environment. Spending 10–12 hours daily in care facilities in the UK can be emotionally challenging, and some overwhelmed nurses tend to act out at work with their colleagues. Even patients and their families bully the nurse staff, and there has been an increase in workplace violence since the pandemic. Verbal assaults, condescending attitudes, and other forms of intimidation or exclusion can constitute bullying. However, the organisation should take steps and develop strategies to make the workplace safe for both patients and nurses. The management and administration should not disregard workplace violence and should take action against such bullying. This helps create a safer workplace and improves the retention of nurse workers. The nurse should be given a space where they can voice their concerns and problems so that further actions can be taken. 

8. Respect their efforts:

A lack of respect will only lead to a lower retention rate. Management should also take steps to appreciate the efforts put in by the nurse staff so as to improve their staff retention rate. Most nurse professionals leave their jobs due to a lack of respect for the effort they put into serving the needy. Nurses should be treated with respect for the service they provide, which will help improve workplace satisfaction and retention. 

Nurses Group is a leading staffing agency in the UK, providing nurses and healthcare professionals to care facilities. We recognise the value of nursing professionals and their commitment to serving the people of the UK. Thus, we adopt strategic measures to increase the retention rates of our nurses. 

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