Staff retention: 5 ways hospitals can keep newly-licensed nurses in their units


A new study has found many factors may hinder unit retention of newly-licensed nurses at hospitals, and also reveals that title retention and low-level unit transfers are far more common than previous estimates suggested.

The study analyzed survey responses from more than 1,500 nurses. Researchers divided the nurses into four categories based on their unit and title retention. The nurses were surveyed in January 2006 and then a year later. A little more than 69 percent of nurses studied remained in the same unit and title at the time of the second survey, and about 30 percent left their roles in some form, switching units, changing titles or both.

This is a “substantially larger” figure than previous estimates, which previously pegged the one-year unit turnover rate for new nurses at about 13 percent, Christine T. Kovner, R.N., Ph.D., professor of nursing at the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing and the study’s lead researcher, said in an announcement.

Both the first and second surveys asked nurses to assess their work environment and satisfaction.

“In doing this we were able to examine the changes in work environment perceptions over time between nurses who remained in the same unit and title to those who changed unit and/or title,” Kovner said in the announcement.

It's worth it for hospital leaders to consider these perceptions as nurse turnover is extremely costly. Indeed, the study found costs can be as much as $67,000 per departure.

The study team found five factors that can indicate whether a nurse will stick with the job after the first year. Newly-licensed nurses at the unit level are likely to stay on the job if they:

  • Hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree
  • Have a varied, autonomous role in the workplace 
  • Maintain a positive relationship with the physicians on the unit

But they are less likely to stay if they:

  • Have negative feelings tied to their jobs
  • Work a second job elsewhere to supplement pay 

To keep nurses on staff, hospital leaders may also want to reduce overtime and promote quality of life initiatives to keep nurses on staff, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

- read the study
- here’s the announcement