Hospitals Need a Business Approach to Nurse Management Training

The number one reason nurses cite for leaving their jobs in exit interviews is their direct manager. This issue is not unique to nursing or healthcare by any stretch of the imagination. Most business people know that people don’t quit jobs; people quit people. Managers are any organization’s number one line of defense when it comes to maintaining morale and retaining good employees. If your managers have not been trained to do this, or if the organization has not made it clear that employee retention should be a priority for managers, then your organization is missing a significant opportunity. It is an opportunity that has serious strategic and financial repercussions.

Nurse managers have it tough. They have a lot on their metaphorical plates; patient care, managing teams of tired, stressed and potentially fried nurses, budgeting, managing schedules, to name just a few. Many nurse managers are not given formal training in core management skills when they make the transition from staff nurse to nurse manager. Nurse managers should not shoulder all the blame for for high turnover in hospitals. There are so many different reasons for high turnover rates that are beyond the immediate control of the nurse managers. However, it is still a legitimate reason for nurse turnover that hopsital administrators can and should address. They just need to look to the traditional business world for models and best practices.

By including specific training for nurse managers that focuses on retaining, rewarding and motivating their teams, hospitals can have a significant competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining talented caregivers. Training in core management skills should take place upon promotion and be included over time as nurse managers develop in their roles.

Skilled nurse managers know that they need to continually recognize and reward their staff, even or especially, in ways that are not about money. Most people thrive on acknowledgement of their work. It is easier to do a tough job when you know someone else values that you are doing it. Being consistent and even-handed about recognition is not as easy or as intiutive as the simple idea of recognition. This is where training can help a nurse manager go from good to great.

Less intuitive are the skills needed to build a performance driven team. This is where continuous training and reinforcement becomes critical. Being able to build strong alliances with staff, and earn their loyalty and commitment to department goals has a significant impact on job satisfaction and retetnion.

Nurse managers also need support from administration so that they have the time and freedom to develop those strong alliances with their teams; so that they have enough interaction with staff to be able to identify those team members who are at risk for turnover; so that they can help employees with key skill or performance areas; and so they can spend enough time recognizing and rewarding good performance among team members.

Hospital administrators not only need to take the steps to provide training to nurse managers in these areas. They also need to seriously examine the nurse manager’s workload. How can that workload be creatively realigned so the nurse managers have more time to actually manage? And there’s the challenge. How can you lighten the workload for nurse managers in a sector already in crisis due to a shortage of workers? Is there a way to work in non-clinical support for the nurse managers? If a hospital found that administrative load/paperwork took up 30% of their nurse managers’ week, they could create an administrative support pool to provide the nurse managers with back up. With their administrative load lightened, nurse managers could recycle that time into retention and team building activities. This is a place where hospitals can get creative with solutions beyond training. And don’t forget, the best source for these creative solutions is going to be the folks they are aimed at helping; the nurse managers!

Pairing new nurse managers with a mentor, a seasoned nurse manager who exemplifies the best practices and success you’d like to see across your organization, gives them an informal resource for ideas, as well as, someone to challenge and help them grow.

There are a ton of resources out there for management training and, increasingly, resources specifically for nurse manager training that focuses of leadership. Ideally, find a vendor with core expertise in this area. Ask for and speak with client references. See if they can provide you with success stories and before and after snapshots of retention figures. See if they are willing to talk about when their program didn’t work. This is such an important initiative, finding a vendor that shares your organization’s values and has a track record of success is serious business.

Some of the folks in this space that I really like are:
“Health Care Performance Institute”
” ABP Training”
“Dale Carnegie”
“The Leaders Toolbox”

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