Healthcare HR and Nursing Leaders: Partnering for Improved Outcomes

Marketing Manager

Healthcare organizations have one mission—to provide quality care to patients. And nurses are integral to accomplishing that mission.

But when it comes to the relationship between healthcare HR and nurses, many people focus on the problems plaguing nursing, including staffing shortages, turnover and burnout. Creating a partnership between nursing leaders and HR, though, can help organizations do a better job recruiting and retaining nurses, leading to better workforce management for HR and improved care for patients.

“Human resources and the nursing department really have to see one another as valuable partners in the strategic planning process to create those goals around recruitment, retention and engagement,” says Dana Obos, Senior Clinical Adviser at Laudio, a healthcare staff management platform. She recommends that nursing leaders and HR make an intentional effort to work together to solve the recruitment and retention issues facing healthcare.

Here’s how a partnership between healthcare HR and nursing leaders can lead to a better work environment for nurses and help reduce staffing issues for healthcare organizations.

Tapping into Nurses’ Expertise

With a projected nursing shortage in the next decade, recruitment has never been more important for healthcare organizations. Nursing leaders bring an invaluable knowledge of the job and the talent pool that can help HR compete for the best talent.

Nurses offer perspective on how healthcare organizations can best market themselves to potential hires as a “healthcare family” and help prospective hires understand what it means to work at that organization, Obos says.

And nurses on a care unit have intimate knowledge of its processes and services that HR may not be aware of, so they can help HR understand how to recruit individuals with the best fit for a particular job. “They understand, for example, that an organization might need experienced nurses in the ICU in order to have good preceptors in the next two years because they’re ramping up new services in that unit,” she says.

Frontline nurses and nursing leaders can collaborate creatively with HR to help retain staff. Nursing leaders also know their teams best and understand what's driving burnout, she advises. “Maybe it's time to start thinking creatively about staff schedules,” Obos says. “Can we allow alternative scheduling or call in retired nurses to fill in two or three days a week?”

Providing Opportunities for Engagement

Creating opportunities for engagement and involvement of nurses in staffing issues is crucial to improving nursing retention, and employee engagement leads to better outcomes, Obos says. “If you've got great staff engagement then you won’t have the turnover that you would normally have on a care unit,” she says. “You won’t need expensive contract labor filling the staff shortages caused by the churn of people leaving because they're not happy or they're not engaged.”

In fact, a case study by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that using a team-based model focused on staff engagement in a progressive care unit improved both safety and satisfaction for nurses. More engagement by staff and nursing leadership resulted in significant improvements in communication, improved perception of workloads and increased job enjoyment.

The case study indicated that this staffing model could potentially save the hospital over $1 million per year.

“If we get nurses engaged at the start and create connection early on then you prevent that turnover that is so likely to occur in the first year, largely because people don't feel connected and don't feel they have a purpose,” Obos says.

Using Training to Help Retention

Training within nursing is highly structured, and effective training systems are particularly important for retention.

Partnering with HR helps nursing leaders provide more effective training. HR can help structure preceptor programs and learning systems to not just identify good clinicians but also identify people the organization wants to develop as future leaders, Obos says. “This can help training serve a key role as a piece of the retention puzzle,” she says.

Ultimately, working with nursing leaders can help HR solve many staffing problems. But a happier, more engaged nursing staff also creates improved patient outcomes.

“An engaged workforce really leads to patient safety and patient satisfaction,” Obos says. “If those employees are invested in their work and they're happy and being developed, then the patients know that.”