Registered nurses (RNs) from the baby boom generation are retiring at a rapid pace, while the demand for skilled nurses continues to rise. Thankfully, a surprisingly large number of millennials—those born between 1982 and 2000—have entered the nursing profession. In fact, millennials have been nearly twice as likely to become RNs as baby boomers were.
But these high rates of entry appear to have plateaued and there has been a rapid turnover of early-tenure millennial nurses, leading to a projected nursing shortage over the next decade. According to the American Nurses Association, 50 percent of newly licensed nurses leave their first position and 6 percent leave the profession entirely during their initial year of employment. This turnover in staff not only negatively affects employee morale and quality of care, it puts financial pressure on healthcare organizations, with some estimates that the departure of one RN can cost up to $90,000.
In response, healthcare leaders have been exploring ways to attract and retain qualified nursing staff, particularly millennials. In 2016, researchers at the Advisory Board Survey Solutions and Nursing Executive Center conducted a study to find out why early-tenure millennial nurses were leaving their organizations at higher rates than other nurses. One reason they found was that millennials tended to be more engaged in their jobs than loyal to their institutions, suggesting that healthcare leaders need to find ways to cultivate greater workplace loyalty among their youngest staff members, especially early in their careers. If leaders can retain millennial nurses past the three-year mark, the researchers discovered, they are likely to remain loyal to the organization if they continue to feel engaged.
Other studies suggest that having low levels of professional empowerment and little control over their work environment have contributed to new nurses leaving their careers. Among the retention strategies that healthcare facilities have successfully implemented to address these concerns are preceptorships that match new graduates with experienced nurses, which have been shown to increase retention rates by 30 percent to 50 percent; externship programs for student nurses in their final year of studies, which have led to a 3 percent increase in retention; and one-year residency programs for newly graduated nurses, which have been shown to increase satisfaction and retention.
The 199SEIU Registered Nurse Training and Job Security Fund’s (RNTJSF) Preceptor Program helps improve nurse retention by providing RNs and licensed practical nurses with the knowledge and skills necessary to become preceptors—experienced nurses who serve as role models for newly-employed nurses. Participants take part in sessions including identifying preceptor roles and responsibilities, learning effective communication strategies, and exploring techniques for stimulating critical thinking. Those who complete the two-day program receive a certificate of completion and 15 continuing education units. From April 2017 through August 2018, 118 nurses attended RNTJSF preceptor programs at locations including Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, St. Barnabas Hospital and Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
Solutions to addressing the nursing shortage in this country include important strategies for engaging and retaining new and millennial nurses. Studies show that initiatives that provide support during the first year of a nurse’s tenure can have a real impact on an organization’s ability to keep that nurse in the job and engaged.