RNs are Leaving Direct Care at Highly Elevated Rates

By Carol Davis

Staffing, pay, and lack of support are the reasons why 32% of RNs surveyed in the United States in November say they may leave their current direct patient-care role, according to research by the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm.

That is an increase of 10 percentage points in under 10 months, according to McKinsey.

Indeed, while staffing shortages aren’t a new concern for healthcare executives, it took the No. 1 spot last year as the top issue that hospital CEOs faced in 2021, according to The American College of Healthcare Executives’ (ACHE) annual survey.

In the past, CEOs had listed financial challenges as their top concern.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Of the surveyed nurses likely to leave their current roles, only 29% would continue direct patient care in some form.
  • Nurses in years one through five and six through 10 of their nursing careers are more likely to say they intend to leave their current role than those with 11-plus years of experience.
  • A safe environment is the top priority for surveyed nurses, followed closely by work-life balance and caring and trusting teammates.

To retain frontline clinicians, healthcare leaders are creating strategies focused on supporting their workforce. McKinsey offers two key implications for healthcare organizations to consider going forward:

1. Tailoring workforce retention strategies to employee needs and preference, including more personalized programs and support, including:

  • Doubling down on environmental factors—i.e., team dynamics, feeling valued by the organization—flexibility, and professional development opportunities.
  • Ensuring the total rewards offering is aligned with organizational strategy and meets a holistic set of needs, such as mental health services and dependent care.
  • Strengthening continuing education programs, roles, and resources that support novice clinicians and “in need” skill sets, such as behavioral health.
  • Offering training and resources for leaders to support the needs of their team members, as well as the entire team.

2. Minimizing workload strains will require innovation but provide much-needed relief. Innovation includes:

  • Using analytics to improve accuracy and timeliness of demand forecasting, workforce alignment, and real-time labor management.
  • Redesigning roles and processes, through digitization and automation where appropriate, to reduce friction points, increase flexibility, and enable top-of-license practice.
  • Figuring new ways to grow the talent pipeline via efficient hiring processes focused on highest need roles/skill sets, untapped pools of talent, and diverse cohorts.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.