Healthcare Professionals

Improving Talent Retention with Positive & Authentic Leadership


September 14, 2022

Feeling the burden of the healthcare staffing shortages? You’re not alone. Learn how authentic leadership increases talent retention.

Not only is a large portion of our healthcare workforce nearing retirement age, but the physical and mental demands from healthcare professionals continue to increase as our health challenges grow. This, coupled with the abysmal retention rates for most nurses or patient-facing support professionals may make you wonder—how can I gain control of the changing landscape within my organization?

New and seasoned healthcare professionals like you will be the emerging leaders of healthcare and will shape the future of the discipline and patient care. In this blog, we will look at ways that you can improve staff satisfaction and retention through empowerment, advocacy, and mentorship as nurses and leaders. You have the power to not only help improve nurse retention, but also make a positive difference in the field through the promotion of professional development, empowerment, and advocacy— otherwise known as authentic leadership.

Empowerment & Mentorship Improves Employee Engagement and Retention

You don’t have to be a leader to make a difference. Many newly graduated or even seasoned nurses are not always aware of the opportunities for professional growth and development that lie ahead in their careers. Nurses with potential for such growth are not given the tools and learning for professional development and advancement to meet their true potential. We cannot bring any change without empowering and developing staff and recognizing that every healthcare professional has the potential to advance and develop professionally.

Every nurse has the opportunity to make a positive impact on the profession through day-to-day mentorship and support for nurses and the nursing profession. This starts with supporting and mentoring new employees and newly graduated nurses. Newer employees greatly appreciate guidance and mentorship from more tenured employees, which can lead to professional development, better job performance, and improved patient outcomes.

Here’s how you can support and mentor your new colleagues in the workplace:

  • Understand their value and needs. Remember that each nurse on the team is there to support you and help patients. New employees need and deserve support. Remember how it was for you when you started a new unit?
  • Offer help— even if they don’t ask for it. If they are new, chances are they are probably shy and don’t feel comfortable asking for help. Offer it anyway! They are more likely to ask you for help when they do need it if they have been offered before.
  • Become a preceptor! Use your knowledge, experience, and skills to support the profession by volunteering to teach newly hired nurses on the unit. This will help you grow professionally also and allows you an opportunity to help shape the culture of your unit.
  • Share the knowledge. The newly graduated nurses may have more knowledge about the current best practices in healthcare that they can teach you. You may know the tips and tricks for hands-on nursing which you can teach them. Sharing knowledge amongst each other helps all parties involved, including the patients!
  • Provide praise. Show appreciation for the staff members’ efforts and performance in staff meetings or shift huddles.
  • Empathize. They will have tough days as all of us do. Empathize with them during those times by sharing your personal experiences with similar situations and encouraging them to find their way through the challenging times.

Advocate for Yourself & Your Team

All healthcare professionals have the right to use their voice to promote positive changes. As a nurse, you must use that voice to advocate for your patients and colleagues. As a leader, you must advocate for the staff and patients.

Here’s how team leaders, charge nurses, managers, and administrators can advocate for patients, nurses, and the profession by giving the staff a voice:

  • Involve staff in budget planning. This promotes an understanding of the challenges operating in today’s healthcare environment and gives the staff a voice.
  • Support open communication. Designate time during staff meetings and huddles for staff to provide feedback regarding unit processes. This enables staff and leaders to advocate more effectively for themselves and for colleagues.
  • Encourage staff to get involved on an organizational level. Staff can participate in nursing practice councils, advocacy programs, and quality improvement councils. They deserve to provide a voice for nurses and represent staff in healthcare policy development on an organizational level.
  • Have an open door policy. As a current or future manager, having an open door policy enables staff to approach management and share ideas. An open door policy makes leaders seem approachable and available—two essential qualities that employees always look for in leaders.

Challenges of Contract HCPs & Travelers

The staffing crisis had led to an increased need for travelers to staff health systems and meet the needs of patient care. Travelers are crucial for our healthcare system as they help fill gaps during crisis situations, staffing shortages, and meet seasonal demands. Similarly to nurses just starting their careers, travelers don’t feel like they can go to their supervisor because of differences in pay, not being ingrained in the office culture, etc. It is just as important for us as nurses and leaders to support, nurture, and grow travel staff.

Have you seen travel professionals treated unfairly? Here’s how you can help contract employees become better integrated into your healthcare organization:

  • Help during their transition. Travelers don’t have as long of an orientation process as permanent employees, that’s part of the deal. However, getting unit leadership to really allow the travelers to get to know each of the nurses and learn the processes can help with travelers transition into their roles within the unit.
  • Provide appreciation. Acknowledging that the travel employees are crucial for the unit to help with the ongoing staffing shortages experienced in nursing right now and understanding their value as an extra set of helping hands.
  • Treat travelers like your fellow colleagues. Understanding that although they are temporary staff members, they have experience from a wide variety of nursing areas and can help with off-service patients with unique diagnoses or disease processes. Like your fellow staff members, travelers can also be utilized as a resource.
  • Involve travelers in unit activities and projects. Like all of us, travelers bring their own set of experiences and ideas to unit projects and activities that can be valuable. This helps travelers feel like they are a part of the team.

The Impact of Mentorship, Empowerment, & Advocacy

The promotion of these values tend to create a positive work culture that anyone can witness, including potential candidates, new staff, patients, and other professionals. Candidates are usually drawn to leadership styles that focus on the growth, involvement, and empowerment of employees & are more likely to work in areas that have a positive culture.

Leaders that promote these values tend to have happier employees and higher retention and recruitment rates. Employees who feel supported, heard, and empowered are likely to provide quality care to their patients by advocating for their patients. It’s a system of positive culture that trickles down and positively affects patient care, work culture, and the organization.

Future Steps

The healthcare system has been going through unprecedented challenges in the last few years, especially regarding staffing, employee burnout, and retention. In healthcare, we focus on a patient-centered model to provide patient care. It’s time that we focus on creating authentic leaders that can drive an employee-centered model to recruit and retain enough staff needed to care for the patients in the first place.

All healthcare professionals can be authentic leaders and staff members to drive positive change. This means being supportive to new graduates and travelers, advocating for patients and staff, and empowering yourself and others. Mentorship can mean providing or taking advantage of opportunities for education, growth, and professional development. Leaders can promote advocacy and empowerment by involving staff in decision-making processes and encouraging them to drive positive change by using their voice.

These authentic values lead to a positive work culture, happier and empowered employees, and satisfied patients. Authentic leadership draws talent recruitment and retention as staff members that feel supported tend to be happier and stay longer.

Thank you to Kamana intern Janvi Jani for contributing the content of this blog.

About Janvi Jani, RN
Janvi is a clinical nurse leader and informaticist based in Birmingham, Alabama. She’s an RN with a multi-state compact license for over 6 years with experience in acute care nursing, ambulatory leadership, quality improvement and informatics, and has recently graduated with her Masters in Nursing with a specialty in Nursing Informatics. Aside from ger career, she enjoys volunteering at her temple as a Youth Group Coordinator, painting landscapes, reading self-improvement books, hiking and spending time with friends and family.

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