At the heart of America’s healthcare system are a high-valued, integral group of workers: Nurses. Not only are they typically the first person a patient encounters when seeking care, but we also owe them an immeasurable debt for putting their lives on the line during times of crisis, like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nurses have perfected the art of caregiving, calling upon their expertise to provide counsel and education, as well as advocate for a patient’s best interests. However, like many professions in the healthcare arena, nursing often demands long hours in an environment that’s both fast-paced and incredibly stressful. 

Because of the nature of nursing work, many hospitals and healthcare facilities are grappling with unengaged staff. Here’s a look at how to address and improve nursing staff engagement. 

Unengaged Nurses: A Dive into the Repercussions

For many, the drive to enter the field of nursing comes from a desire to impact lives and truly make a difference in the world. When healthcare organizations furnish nurses with the resources and support needed to bolster their success, facilities will see a corresponding uptick in engagement levels. 

According to PRC’s National Nursing Engagement Report, 15.6% of nurses surveyed reported feelings of burnout and 41% reported being unengaged in the workplace. It should come as no surprise that a lack of engagement can be detrimental to patient outcomes and the overall success of a healthcare facility. 

While your nursing staff may be physically on the premises, if they’re experiencing emotional exhaustion and burnout, it’ll directly impact the quality of care delivered and their ability to overcome challenges with confidence. As a result, turnover rates can increase while your healthcare system’s reputation can plummet. 

NCBI research puts the cost of medical errors in the U.S. at approximately $20 billion a year. What’s more, with a clear correlation between nursing staff engagement and patient quality, safety and outcomes, it’s imperative for hospitals and healthcare facilities to implement stronger engagement strategies in order to prevent complications and mortality variation. 

Nursing Staff Engagement: The Difference in Quality Care

Fully engaged nursing staff are the ones who exhibit compassion, empathy and similar characteristics that are vital to forging positive connections with patients. Higher engagement levels also leads to a better patient experience. 

Healthcare systems with strong engagement will find their nurses provide more efficient and effective patient care, have a reduced number of absences and have a decreased risk of succumbing to burnout

As demand for quality care and services increases, and the country facing the ever-growing dilemma of physician and nursing shortages, healthcare leaders must shift their focus to prioritize nursing engagement. From a high level of workplace and interpersonal support to factors like leadership access, autonomy and collaboration, there are a number of areas leaders can address to improve nursing engagement. 

To jump-start your nursing staff engagement initiatives, here are three ways to help drive success:

1. Empower Nurses to Share Their Voices

Cultivate a culture rooted in communication. Ensure dialogue is continually encouraged and nurses are empowered to share their thoughts, concerns and challenges. Is their workload manageable? Is the facility properly staffed? Are your nurses exposed to the right technology and resources to perform at an optimal level? 

By constantly garnering feedback from your staff, you’ll be able to identify whether burnout or fatigue are beginning to negatively impact performance. Hospital leaders that encourage transparency and promote non-disciplinary environments effectively open the doorway for their nursing team to bring concerns to light before they transform into bigger, costlier problems. 

2. Implement Necessary Workplace Changes

As you gather insights from your staff, it’s important to formulate an action plan as quickly as possible. Whether that requires hiring contract healthcare workers to accommodate seasonal patient fluctuations or offering staff more professional development and educational opportunities, leadership must take their learnings and implement tangible solutions

When you establish a culture where leadership is both accessible and responsive, it’ll encourage nurses to take ownership of their work, display more creative and innovative thinking and exhibit higher levels of dedication to their craft.

3. Give Recognition

Make it a priority to continuously recognize and highlight the hard work of your nursing staff. Not only should you communicate how the efforts of your nurses are contributing to the facility’s overall success, but you should also use examples showcasing how your staff is making a difference in the lives of your patients. A strong recognition program is the key to helping staff find meaning in their work while keeping motivation high. 

Improving nursing engagement within your hospital or healthcare facility won’t happen overnight. It requires commitment and ongoing focus from leadership, as well as leveraging the right resources. 

At Polaris, we can help strengthen your engagement efforts to improve a multitude of areas, including patient experience, quality of care, patient safety and outcomes, the wellbeing of your nursing staff and your bottom line. Contact us today to learn how we can help drive your efforts to new heights.