Nurse leaders collaborating in a positive workplace culture Recruiting and retaining nurse leaders is a critical concern for healthcare HR teams, as turnover among these high-value professionals remains strong. “Nurse Manager Job Satisfaction and Intent to Leave,” a joint study by the University of Kentucky and the University of Chapel Hill, estimates that 72 percent of nurse leaders plan to vacate their positions within five years. Burnout was the most common factor cited, followed by career change, promotion, and retirement.

That churn is costly, too. Additional research from the University of North Carolina estimates the cost of replacing an experienced nurse at $82,000 to $88,000.

One tactic for recruiting nurse leaders (and keeping them) is to provide a positive workplace culture.

Improve Nurse Leader Recruitment and Reduce Turnover

Workplace culture is big part of what has kept nurse leader Renee Bridges at the same university hospital for 17 years.

“We look at the people who are working there and how they are treated,” she says. “Nursing is hard work. If people enjoy what they do and are supported, it shows.”

Two of the most essential aspects of culture are:

  • Collaboration and Teamwork: “We spend something like half our lives at work — and some of us more than that,” says Bridges. “We can teach you skills, so I’m looking for caring individuals with a mindset that we’re all in it together.” High-performing nurse leaders also want clear performance expectations and the support for managers and teams to have a say in how to meet them.
  • Educational Opportunities and Support: Access to and subsidies for professional development and education are appealing. “It’s important to have some help with tuition reimbursement,” says Bridges, who received tuition support for her master’s and DNP. And it doesn’t always have to be a formal program. “Local and national conferences are important for us to build our toolkits and for networking. We hear what other people are doing to learn best practices and focus on the leadership aspect of nursing.”

You also can improve how you’re recruiting nurse leaders and retaining them with behavioral assessments that yield data you can use to:

  • Maintain or Evolve Workplace Culture: “When patient experience is a cultural value, you need to have people who engage in the behaviors consistent with that value,” explains HealthcareSource Scientific Advisor Dr. Frederick Morgeson, an organizational psychology and behavior expert, and Eli Broad, Professor of Management at Michigan State University. Assessing existing employees in a developmental or diagnostic way helps determine the behaviors and activities that deliver good patient outcomes and meet your organization’s cultural, financial, and operational goals.
  • Inform Hiring Decisions: Top-shelf employees like working with other high achievers, so assess prospects for:
    • Conscientiousness: “The healthcare space is obviously demanding, but you have to do things the right way,” says Morgeson. “Employees must be hardworking, dependable, responsible, and thorough.”
    • Ambition: Screening for an achievement orientation identifies people who are ambitious, driven, and willing to put in the time and effort needed to be successful.
    • Self-confidence: “Leaders must believe in their own capabilities,” he says. There is not always one clear path to take in patient care, and “confidence is a way to overcome or tolerate that ambiguity.”
  • Develop Nurse Leadership Skills: “Behavioral assessments of current employees give you a sense of what the possibilities are, plus insights into weaknesses and what training and development activities you need to employ” when you bring new nurse leaders on, he adds.

Use these insights to strengthen nurse leader retention and job satisfaction, and to ensure a healthcare workplace that facilitates recruiting nurse leaders.


Read more resources from The Nurse Leadership Toolkit:

Margot Carmichael Lester

About Margot Carmichael Lester

Margot Carmichael Lester is a North Carolina-based freelance business journalist who has been covering healthcare and staffing for more than 20 years. She also writes about moviemaking for the International Cinematographers Guild, specializing in action cinema. Margot co-authored the award-winning teen writing book Be a Better Writer with her husband, Steve Peha. She earned her BA in journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is a rabid Tar Heel basketball fan.