Now that the economy is coming back, many of the nurses who had considered retiring in the past are beginning to do so.

A 2014 AORN Salary and Compensation Survey reported that more than fifty percent of the nurses in perioperative assignments are more than 50 years old.

Root adds “Not only do facilities now face a huge number of retirements over the next 5-7 years that will cause staffing shortages, but they should also be concerned about the wealth of knowledge that will be walking out their doors. The retirements and the loss of “native knowledge” will not only be felt at the staff level, but management positions will also be affected.”

In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the number of RN’s in the workforce would climb to 3.24 million nurses by 2022. That effectively adds 526,800 nurses to the nursing pool, but the Bureau also projected that the hospital industry would require 525,000 replacement nurses to cover those who are going to retire during that same time period.

This means that hospitals are going to go through a very challenging time span with regards to recruiting and retaining nursing staff and nursing leadership. In many rural areas that shortage that was predicted is already beginning to be felt.

According to Root, here is what hospitals and healthcare facilities need to be doing now to future proof their facility.

Begin to Prepare Now for Future Vacancies

Chief Nursing Officers (CNOs) and other Nursing Leaders need to have a clear picture of those who are most likely to retire or leave the facility and become actively engaged in finding and cultivating future nursing leadership. Making plans for backfilling your vacancies before they occur is just good management and will prevent the need to use more expensive traveling nursing staff as many facilities do when they are short staffed. This is costly and can often be hard on morale.

According to Root “Facilities should be working to educate new nurses and to find ways to keep older nurses working part time, or whatever it takes to provide time for them to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. No facility should be waiting until the vacancies take place prior to seeking out replacements or having an idea of who can step up for leadership positions.”

Work with Nursing Schools and Colleges in Your Area

Work in concert with local nursing schools and technical schools to ensure that you have nurses who are exposed to your facility and may even complete part of their training there. This helps to ensure that you are seen as a very viable venue for employment once they graduate.

Take note of those who are outstanding students when they are in the facility training and keep a close eye on them. Begin to actively recruit them post-graduation. Even consider the possibility of developing a formal nurse residency program if you don’t already have one established.

Create a Hiring Plan that is Specific to OR Nursing Staff

As the acute care facilities begin recruiting nursing staff into perioperative roles or training programs, it is imperative that they understand the special skills and the sharp demands and challenges that are part of OR nursing. OR nurses are often required to reposition or to move patients and often with transporting patients or equipment necessary for the surgery as well as to stand during surgical procedures. Seeking out strong, patient oriented nurses with the right hard and soft skills is imperative.

Identify the Right Role Models for Your Facility

The work here is fast paced and very intense. It’s necessary that new nurses here need to be well oriented and taken under the wing of someone who is highly skilled in what they do, but not necessarily the clinical expert. “Someone who is more on the competent level as opposed to the clinical expert may be a better match for a new student. Usually, they are not as far removed from being a brand-new nurse and will likely have empathy for what the new nurse is going through,” reasoned Root when discussing this type of pairing. This will engage them, but not make them feel incompetent at the tasks they are learning.

Taking steps now to ensure that your staff is ready to receive and help train new nurses is as important as ensuring that there is new staff ready when the older staff do finally and inevitably retire from the nursing profession, taking their skills and experience with them.

Mitch Robbins is an expert regarding Interim and Permanent Nursing Leadership Recruitment for hospitals and clinics, helping organizations build best in class clinical leadership teams in the USA.

Learn to how to STOP losing your best nurses, IMPROVE your patient outcomes and DECREASE your staffing costs with special guest LeAnn Thieman. Download the free webinar transcript with LeAnn, Hall of Fame Speaker, Nurse, and Co-Author of the book Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul. Download your free copy here.

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