May is Nurses Month, a month-long opportunity to give extra attention to the nursing professionals who are the beating heart of healthcare. This week, the American Nursing Association (ANA) is asking the nation’s health facilities and institutions to focus on ways to support nurse career development, helping nurse professionals keep their professional careers on track as they work to provide essential patient care.
From aides and CNAs to RNs and APRNs, and all points in between, the work that nurses do is the foundation of patient care. To that end, we’re happy to offer them not only some well-deserved recognition, but also some help in making sure they’re getting the support they need in their professional goals — not only for Nurses Month 2021, but all year long.
Why Is Nurse Career Development So Important?
Why is it important to provide nurses with the chance to develop their careers? Facilities that can cultivate a culture that encourages educational and leadership opportunities enjoy happier, engaged workers. And nurses who feel heard, appreciated and supported in their larger goals are more likely to not just meet but exceed expectations on a day-to-day basis. The result is a facility that’s more efficient and better equipped to meet its patient care obligations.
A focus on nurse career development is also the logical next step of offering a supportive workplace. By helping nurses achieve a healthy work-life balance, and by helping them manage the “emotional intensity” of being a nurse, as the ANA Enterprise puts it, you can help them stay happy, healthy and doing the best work they can to take care of patients.
Burnout and compassion fatigue — always big concerns for nurses — have also risen dramatically during the pandemic. Overwork and burnout can have serious consequences, not just for nurses but for the patients they care for and the facilities they work in. The result could be operational inefficiency and less-than-ideal outcomes, for starters.
By helping nurses focus on their own wellbeing and helping support them in their larger personal and professional goals, you can help make sure that your healthcare workplace is happy, healthy and functional. And by taking the extra effort to support nurse career development, you’re doing an even better job of engaging your nurses with their jobs and your entire organization.
And while it may be true that some nurses will seek greener pastures after they’ve achieved their professional goals, the benefits they can offer while they’re still under your roof can be considerable. They’ll have new skills to offer, for starters, including the use of ever-changing technology and a better understanding of today’s complex healthcare environment. They’ll also be able to help mentor other staff members, bringing your facility’s shared skill level even higher.
There’s also a good chance that the nurses whom you’ve supported in their career goals will stay with your facility even after they’ve achieved those goals. In the end, providing the support, guidance and the means to help nurses achieve their dream job is not just a way to ensure a better nurse workforce for everybody in the future, but a way to give your own facility very real advantages today.
5 Ways to Support Nurse Career Development in Your Facility
How can you help support career development for the nurses working in your facility? Our experts have a few recommendations.
#1: Provide learning opportunities when possible. The most direct and effective way to promote professional development for nurses among your staff is to offer the chance to earn continuing education (CE) credits in-house. Making this slight alteration offers not only the chance to nurture career development, but will likely help improve employee engagement, too.
Some other ways are offering tuition reimbursement, promoting participation in nurse associations, implementing a mentorship program, offering leadership training, providing free access to literature like medical journals, and setting up more CE-compatible, on-site training programs. All of these are likely to promote engagement and boost satisfaction as well as help the larger cause of nurse career development.
#2: Rethink scheduling. “I believe finding ways to leave work, at work, is the key to avoiding burn out and staying positive even in difficult circumstances,” as one nurse told the ANA Enterprise. Giving your staff that kind of flexibility not only helps them stay centered mentally, but also helps give them the time and the motivation to pursue larger professional goals.
One way to enable your facility to become more flexible in scheduling is to partner with a travel nurse recruitment specialist. This will give you access to a network of per diem or travel nurses who can help fill in the gaps when your permanent nurses need a break or temporary leave for personal or professional reasons.
#3: Help encourage self-care. The ANA focuses on self-care as a means to help nurses realize their personal wellbeing, which is important in the pursuit of larger professional goals. It’s gaining in popularity, but self-care is still far from a universal attitude among nurses. The ANA offers a series of resources and webinars to help you learn more about how it can help, and how you can promote it among your nurses — see more here.
#4: Open up a dialogue. Whether or not you encourage them to, some nurses will speak out to their supervisors and leaders with requests for advancement, or to understand their prospects for job growth at your facility: “To make change happen, start talking about it,” encourages the ANA and its Nurses Month sponsors.
Expecting these questions and having ready answers to them is a great step toward promoting nurse career development. Even better is offering a formal system of discussion or Q&A sessions to give nurses a specific path to approaching you with their requests for career development.
#5: Offer career counselling and retirement planning. Not every facility has the resources to employ career counsellors or even create a formal professional development program for their nurses. But making a gesture in this direction can still be a big help. A local workforce consultant or a member of the university could help provide this service, as could a healthcare managed services provider (MSP).
In addition to helping align your workforce with your organization’s larger strategic priorities and goals, MSPs can also help you understand the value and even establish specific ROI for supporting nurse career development. To learn more about how healthcare MSP can help your facility meet its workforce development or patient care goals, contact us here. And if you need nurses in your facility, you can submit a CareerStaff nurse request form here.