Learn About Healthcare Employee Retention

Every organization wants to retain good teams of people, but in healthcare, the consequences of losing a well-functioning group can be especially significant.

Missed or incorrect medications, increased patient falls, and lower patient satisfaction have been shown to result from high nurse turnover.

Nurse holding a book

Healthcare Employee Retention: How to Hold Onto Talent

For healthcare providers, healthcare employee retention is critical for the safety and satisfaction of patients. From the perspective of the general public, reducing turnover and increasing employee retention in healthcare is a matter of public health. The cost of turnover ends up being borne by patients as higher healthcare prices.

In healthcare, it is critical that a patient care team is focused and works well together. If the first responder is trying to learn how to work with a new emergency room physician, they might not be able to provide the same attention to a patient as a more seasoned pair.

Why healthcare employees leave

One of the most common reasons healthcare employees leave their place of work is after experiencing burnout. Nearly half of physicians and one third of nurses report the mental, physical, and ethical exhaustion that characterize burnout. When an employee experiencing burnout leaves, it costs around one third of their annual salary to replace them.

More positive reasons for leaving a healthcare organization exist. As the United States population ages and healthcare requirements increase, there are more and more opportunities for trained medical staff. A physician or registered nurse may leave after finding higher pay or a more comprehensive benefits package at another institution.

The scale of the issue

Turnover in the healthcare industry can be as high as 30% in some segments of employment. For example, nearly one in three part-time paramedics will leave their employer in a given year. Almost one in five registered nurses leave their positions each year, and for emergency room physicians the rate is one in ten. Considering how crucial it can be for the entire chain of care to work together, any changes in a team due to turnover can increase patient complications. Even if a newly hired member of the medical team integrates seamlessly with the existing workforce, the cost of finding and onboarding them can be around one fifth to one third of their annual salary. This amounts to an expensive increase in the cost of care simply to replace a missing healthcare employee.

How to retain healthcare employees

Given the scale and cost of the issue of healthcare employee turnover, healthcare organizations need to use every tool at their disposal to retain their employees. The disruption in care and onboarding costs mean that holding onto valued employees is an imperative for providing competent care.

Increasing direct pay may be an option, but increasingly employees want a better work-life balance. Four out of five employees surveyed in 2015 indicated that employer benefits were more important than increased pay. A comprehensive benefits package might include employer provided child care, whether it be on-site child care or through daycare tuition reimbursement. Employer child care benefits can reduce turnover by 50%, which can be a huge cost savings for an employer. Other benefits may include paid parental leave and paid vacation.

Educational benefits can not only retain, but also attract high-quality employees for healthcare organizations. Student loan repayment benefits and nurse tuition reimbursement programs can help healthcare employees with existing student debt.

An employer can also offer to help an employee gain new educational and professional credentials. An employer educational assistance program or employee tuition assistance program helps employees expand their skill set. Advances in medicine mean that treatments are constantly being developed and refined. In order to provide the highest standard of care, healthcare employees should expect to continually expand and refine their knowledge.

With the increase in digital medical tools, being a healthcare caregiver often includes learning new software and technology. A radiologist that knows how to take and develop film X-rays may find that the hospital or facility they work at is switching to entirely digital imaging procedures. If the radiologist wants to continue to do their job, they will have to get new training. This provides an opportunity for a healthcare employer. An employer may either match or entirely cover the cost of tuition in exchange for a commitment to remain with the healthcare organization for a set period of time. This is mutually beneficial for the employer and employee, as the employee gains new educational credentials, and the employer doesn’t have to spend money onboarding a new hire.

Frequently Asked Questions About Healthcare Employee Retention

Why is healthcare employee retention important?

Retaining healthcare employees reduces healthcare costs and increases positive outcomes for patients. Higher turnover often equates to higher rates of medical complications. Simple mix-ups like missed medications or forgetting to change a bed can extend a patient’s hospital stay.

Does the healthcare field have more jobs available than there are people to fill those jobs?

Yes, there is a significant shortfall in the amount of qualified healthcare employees compared to the amount of healthcare positions available. This gives healthcare employees a significant advantage when negotiating higher pay or benefits.

Are healthcare companies required to provide paid parental leave for their employees?

In the United States, healthcare employers must follow the same employment laws as other companies. Companies with more than 50 employees must provide twelve weeks of paid parental leave. Some employers choose to offer further benefits for employees returning from a first maternity leave.

Can a healthcare company require an employee to remain with a company?

A healthcare company can stipulate minimum terms of employment, and can pair benefits with employment windows.

Why do healthcare employees leave their jobs?

Higher pay or better benefits often cause healthcare employees to change places of work. Burnout or exhaustion may cause a healthcare employee to leave the field altogether.


Family care benefits have never been more important. See how Bright Horizons can support your team.

Bright Horizons is a United States–based child-care provider and is the largest provider of employer-sponsored child care. Employees looking to become a child care teacher are offered the opportunity to earn an early education degree for free as part of their corporate benefits. Search by zip to find a child care center near you. Bright Horizons Global Headquarters are in Newton, Massachusetts, USA.