The One Challenge in Nursing We Don’t Talk Enough About

Nurse holding a text book

News about tech skills gaps don’t generally make us think about nurses.

But maybe they should. 

Bedside employees may not be designing your next app, but they’re managing tech skills all the same. “Digital transformation is impacting and will continue to impact the discipline of nursing,” wrote Modern Healthcare. It’s not just electronic record keeping, but robotics and AI. Half of nurses told our recent survey that technology advancements are requiring them to learn skills at a faster past than in previous years.  

The Highest Turnover Rate in a Decade

The skills creep is a big deal. Tech may be everywhere. But unlike in other industries where new proficiencies replace old tasks (consider the manufacturing employee shifting to automation support), in nursing, they only add to them – so every new tech skill is required to continue performing the jobs they already do. As one administrator told us, “IV pumps and monitors are getting so sophisticated, nurses are worried for their own competencies.” 

The problem is that workloads are already weighing nurses down. Nearly half feel burnt out at least once a week. And their largest source of stress? The workload – with two-thirds agreeing it’s grown in the last 12 months. Add in tech skills, and it’s no wonder turnover among beside nurses (as we’ll be discussing on a webinar I’ll be hosting later this week) is currently tied for the highest it’s been in a decade. 

The Answer to Nurse Burnout and Turnover

So what can employers do? We know from our survey that work/life balance and career growth are two elements nurses prioritize in current job choices. We also know flexible scheduling and education (specifically, tuition help for future degrees) are two of the top three elements that could lure them away to a competitor. All of those are elements of supportive cultures, something almost all nurses agree affects the quality of patient care. So illustrate a positive culture -- recognize, for example, the grind and inherent work/family conflicts of entry-level-nurse schedules, and then show clear paths to career growth out of them – and you not only facilitate young nurses’ ability (and desire) to keep up with today’s demands; you also get nurses who see you as a place to build a long-term career. And loyal nurses are tough to lure away.

There’s one more thing: reducing churn is only one thing employers need to worry about. Nearly half the nurses we surveyed said in the last six months, they’d seriously considered leaving their jobs. That speaks to state of mind. Nurses who are so stressed that they daydream about leaving – but stay anyway – aren’t on their best game. And that’s not just a threat to organizational structures, but to patient care. Nurses, says the above administrator, are passionate about all aspects of their jobs – learning and patient care. They just need to know their organization is behind them.

Technological evolution isn’t going anywhere. And for nurses, the onus to keep up with it -- in addition to patients -- may just tip the scales even further. A great culture that supports nurses could help level it.

Nurse walking up the stairs in a hospital

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Written by: Jonathan Corke

June 24, 2019

About the Author

Jonathan Corke at Bright Horizons

As Senior Director, Product Marketing, Jonathan has spent the last decade working at the intersection of strategic HR and enterprise technology. He has learned a great deal about converting a talent management strategy into an operating plan through direct conversations with HR leaders and numerous industry surveys. These experiences have sparked a fascination with how leading employers create a better environment for their workforce, and how that environment drives consistent business performance. Jonathan holds an MBA from Clark University.