Despite growing healthcare demands, nursing as a vocation has not been able to keep up.

The turnover rate for bedside RNs increased to 17.2 percent in 2015, compared to 16.4 percent from the previous year, according to a survey conducted by NSI Nursing Solutions. Nurse turnover not only has a significant impact on patient satisfaction and treatment outcomes; it also comes at a high price. It is estimated that every percentage point increase in nurse turnover costs an average hospital about $300,000 annually.

And some nurses are leaving the profession altogether. The main reasons for this, according to Minority Nurse, are short staffing, lack of leadership, underpayment, no career advancement, and an overwhelming amount of tasks per nurse.

Being mindful of these issues, you can implement a recruitment/retention strategy to combat RN turnover and vacancy rates. You need to be more creative than simply posting job openings or using social media sites like LinkedIn. Even offering sign-on bonuses to reel in promising candidates to your hospital isn’t enough — that investment will likely walk right out the door once the employee’s contract is up.

So how do you keep these sought-after RNs from seeking employment elsewhere? By making it desirable to stay.

Here are four proactive measures for healthcare talent management professionals to consider adopting to recruit and retain engaged nurses who love their job and stay long term:

1. Create a Strong Culture

Creating a strong workplace culture is by far the most important component to making a nurse want to work for you. Employees want to know they’re in a supportive environment where their voices will be heard. This is what builds trust between the staff and administration. They need front-line managers who value their input. For example, if a nurse offers a solution to a workplace problem, she should be rewarded for that level of strategic thinking.

Baptist Health, a faith-based organization, initiated a unique program called HR on Wheels. HR executives go to the clinical floors at different shifts on a mobile cart filled with brochures and other important flyers. They liaise with nurses and give them a chance to speak to an HR representative in person to discuss the benefits the hospital provides.

Employment brand is another vital piece of a strong culture. Consider using a recruitment marketing platform to give your talent acquisition team a competitive edge in getting the word about your brand (and culture) out to attract the right candidates.

2. Offer Career Advancement

Nurses will think twice about leaving a hospital if they believe they have a future within the organization. This is particularly important for millennial nurses just starting out on their journey. Offer educational opportunities for nursing staff to learn about making the transition from RN to BSN or other areas of interest. Offer tuition reimbursement programs and opportunities to float on different floors and shadow other people.

In an article from Gallup, one thing healthcare organizations can do to set themselves apart in recruitment and retention is to promote nurses to nurse manager based on their talent for management as opposed to merely functional skills and knowledge. The best managers exhibit unique traits, including accountability, self-discipline, courage, problem-solving, and team-building — qualities that can’t be ‘trained’ but are inherent.

3. Provide a Flexible Work Schedule

Nurses often put their patients’ and coworkers’ needs ahead of their own. Their selflessness can cause a great deal of stress in their personal lives. A study conducted by Health Affairs found that nurses who work over 12 hours in a single shift and 40 hours in a week are more prone to turnover and job dissatisfaction.

Like the rest of us, nurses have personal obligations outside the hospital. They have significant others, family members, and children to care for. They attend their children’s school plays, parent-teacher conferences, and soccer games. Healthcare leaders can deploy a collaborative staffing model to provide their nurses the flexible schedules needed to fulfill their responsibilities at home. Enjoy the boost in morale as staff members work under less stress and accommodate each other’s needs.

4. Recognize and Reward High Performers

Something as simple as nursing leaders taking the time to demonstrate appreciation for their staff’s efforts will go a long way. Nurses want to feel appreciated for the work they’re doing. By acknowledging the dedication they have for the organization, nurses will be motivated to go the extra mile by providing exceptional patient care.

Many hospitals like to use service awards like Nurse of the Month/Year to show their appreciation for a nurse’s dedication and loyalty. Temple St. Luke’s Hospital has a retention bonus program where they reward their loyal staff on an annual basis. They also offer a Pay as You Go Nursing Educational Assistance program. In this program, individuals who are accepted into either a bachelor or associate of nursing program will have their educational expenses pre-paid. In addition, employees are paid for the time they are taking classes.

By creating a nurse-friendly culture, offering opportunities for career growth, establishing a flexible environment, and by recognizing and rewarding RNs for their hard work and loyalty, your organization will have the upper hand in the war for healthcare talent.

Comment below and share with us what tips you have to keep a nurse happy and loyal to your healthcare organization!

Read more from the Nurse Engagement Toolkit:

For more insight into how talent and learning management impacts nursing excellence, download our white paper: Journey to Magnet Excellence®: How Talent Management Influences Nursing Distinction.

Journey to Magnet Excellence - Talent Management White Paper

About Leo Suarez

Leo Suarez is a Miami, Florida-based freelance copywriter and blogger who has more than 12 years experience in the healthcare industry. Aside from healthcare, he also writes about technology and marketing content for B2B companies and entrepreneurs. He earned his bachelor's degree in business from Florida International University. Leo is also working on his first sci-fi novel titled "The Ancestor "and is a big movie buff.