What happens when healthcare organizations can’t retain the employees they need? In some settings, like hospitals, existing employees become stretched thin in their roles — potentially overworking as they try to fill the gaps and attend to patient needs. This type of high-stress working environment can seriously damage morale, which can fuel even higher turnover rates as employees search for greener pastures elsewhere.
From the patients’ perspective, it may become harder to get the appointments they need — with longer lead times between making the appointment and seeing a specialist, particularly in rural areas where there are already many barriers to healthcare access withstanding.
Organizations also struggle to provide efficient, cost-effective care to bolster patient outcomes. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation, which is why it’s so important for players within the industry to proactively deal with high turnover rates.
The True Cost of Healthcare Staff Turnover
Turnover typically costs 1.5 to 2 times any departing staff member’s salary. So, losing a physician can cost an organization $200,000 or more. Losing a nurse can cost at least $58,000. As Beckers Hospital Review cites, a health system could easily see between $5 and $8 million per year in expenses associated with turnover.
There’s the cost of recruiting, training and hiring someone new, of course. There’s also lost productivity to consider. And, worst of all, there’s the potential negative impact on patient outcomes due to lack of care continuity. Moreover, turnover begins to incite itself when high turnover rates affect morale and organizational reputation.
Focusing on Healthcare Staff Retention Strategies
There are a wide variety of reasons a healthcare professional may choose to leave an org. Case in point: A 2019 study found that more than four out of 10 nurses feel “unengaged” at work, while more than 15 percent feel burned out. This points to a need for healthcare organizations to improve staff workflows, alleviate pain points and incentivize workers to want to stay.
It’s clear healthcare organizations benefit from prioritizing retention, especially given the prevalent skills shortage at hand. Thankfully, administrators and executives have more data available at their fingertips than ever before. Advanced medical data analytics are highly useful for identifying pain points, analyzing the experience of doctors and nurses on staff and tracking turnover trends. When decision-makers have access to relevant insights, they can implement targeted solutions to lower turnover, ease burnout and boost engagement — all with the overarching goal of maximizing patient outcomes.
The exact measures leaders take to solve these problems will vary. Here’s one case study by Modern Healthcare: The Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, Texas faced a serious retention problem. Only three out of every four first-year employees stayed, which is below the industry average of 83 percent.
So, the nursing, HR and operations teams designed a program to attract and keep talent.
Its initiatives included:
- Revamped pay and benefit structures (403(b) fund matching, improved paid time off, medical cost coverage for out-of-pocket expenses)
- Tuition reimbursement
- Student loan assistance for hires
- A nurse residency program to feed their hiring program
- More concrete hiring, onboarding and shadowing practices
- Incentivizing management with bonuses for retaining employees
First-year turnover plummeted to 14 percent. Over the course of three years, the health system has retained 90 percent of clinical hires. While the program cost $18 million to implement, leaders estimate it’s saved $54 million since its roll out.
It behooves health systems to address high turnover rates head on using data analytics, case studies and staff feedback. Otherwise, patient outcomes will plummet and costs will remain higher for everyone throughout the health ecosystem.