When it comes to managing a urology practice, boosting nursing workforce retention is no easy task.
Nursing is a high-stress field in general. Urology's increased knowledge burdens, professional skill requirements, frequent patient contact, and extra workloads only add to the strain, resulting in high turnover rates and diminishing workplace satisfaction.
Administrators who want their practices to succeed must proactively improve working conditions. Here are some insights on why the problem is so important and seven smart ways to drive heightened retention.
What's Bothering Urology Nurses in the Workplace?
It's commonly accepted that overworked nurses are a fact of life in modern urologic medicine, but what drives this trend? The answer might not be so simple: One 2017 study of self-reported stressors found that nurses routinely had to contend with everything from equipment shortages and deficiencies to unpredictable schedules and insufficient time to see patients.
These issues may partially relate to how the caregiving industry typically works. Practitioners and administrators faced with budget constraints may hesitate to purchase the latest diagnostic equipment, software, or administration management systems, placing logistics burdens on their nurses.
No matter where the root cause of stress may lie, it's not something administrators can afford to overlook. For instance, one study of Italian oncology nurses found that some 35 percent of respondents reported high levels of emotional exhaustion, implicating poor organization as a factor.
Urology nurses are on the front lines of care for some of the most vulnerable patients. As the typical first point of contact for individuals with urological conditions, these caregivers face a higher risk of exposure to hazards, a reality underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the pandemic initially resulted in urology services being deprioritized or deferred, this hasn't necessarily translated to a reprieve for nurses. On the contrary, some research has shown that despite the rise of telemedicine and other alternatives to traditional care, the pandemic negatively impacted training and limited the regularity of cancer screenings. This raises the question of whether nursing workloads might become even more hectic as the industry plays catch-up in the near future.
It's also worth pondering the problem of care rationing – or limiting the care given to patients due to time, scheduling, logistical, and other constraints. Although it might seem like care rationing would lead to nurses having more cooldown time, it usually occurs as a result of already-overwhelming workplace conditions. In other words, care rationing is a symptom, not a cure, and due to the ethical concerns that come along with it, it may further heighten stressors.
Seven Smart Ways to Improve
Administrators play a key role in helping nurses avoid or cope with stressors that might otherwise prove utterly defeating. Consider whether implementing the following ideas might help you engineer better workplace conditions for your nursing teams and keep people on board.
- Provide Competitive Compensation and Benefits
Pay your nurses what they're worth. As the backbone of your practice, they deserve to be compensated at competitive rates.
The same goes for benefits packages – Yours should be worth the hard labor required to earn them. This will show your nurses that you value their well-being.
So how do you balance the need for just recompense with the fiscal realities of running a practice? Start by evaluating your cost-management practices to see if you might be able to free up funding you can redirect toward compensation. For instance, you might transition to using variable cost structures to do more with your revenue.
- Demonstrate Appreciation
Show your nurses how much you appreciate them. A simple thank you can serve as an extremely powerful gesture in high-stress conditions, and so can passing on positive feedback from patients and their families.
Acknowledging the fact that your nurses uplift your business helps them feel like they make a difference not only to patients but also to you and their colleagues. There's no better way to spread good vibes and build a happy workplace.
There are many ways in which practitioners can demonstrate appreciation for nurses – so there's no excuse for not at least making an effort. In addition to expressing gratitude verbally, for example, you might send thank-you notes or provide small gifts and tokens of appreciation. Show you value your nurses by advocating for them within the organization or network, promoting them within the profession, and championing the causes they're passionate about.
One caution to bear in mind when showing gratitude in the workplace is that you need to be impartial. Don't play favorites, and if you already use these tactics, it's worth taking an objective look at whether you've been doling out appreciation equitably. Minimizing organizational drama by treating people more fairly can distinguish your workplace from a dead-end job.
- Answer Burnout With Empathy
If your nurses are feeling burnt out – and they will at some point – take the time to listen to their concerns. Address them accordingly.
Empathy doesn't just mean telling someone that you've heard them or even admitting that you've contributed to their negative feelings: You've also got to be willing to take action, whether that means offering counseling services, accommodating schedule changes, or reassigning duties temporarily to help spread the load around.
In many cases, the concerns your nurses raise will be indicative of deeper-seated problems, such as inefficient workplace practices that heighten stress. If their complaints go in one ear and out the other, the underlying problems won't get solved. Instead, take an approach that involves building on feedback to enact real improvements at work – or at least study alternative management practices – so that you can provide real stress relief.
- Offer Flexible Scheduling
Allow your nurses to have some flexibility when it comes to their schedules. This can go a long way in reducing burnout.
It's vital to remember that nurses have lives beyond your practice. As good as they may be at focusing on the work at hand, outside stressors can wear at them until they reach breaking points. By letting your team know they have the option of schedule flexibility, you'll make them feel less backed into a corner – even if they rarely exercise this freedom.
- Provide Continuing Education Opportunities
Offer your nurses opportunities to further their education. This will show them that you're invested in their professional development and open to them choosing their career paths – not just trying to get the most you possibly can out of their hard labor.
Encouraging your employees to take advantage of continuing education opportunities is a great way to give them a chance to learn and grow. While your corporate culture and internal messaging can go a long way, it's also smart to put your money where your mouth is by:
- Offering financial assistance for continuing education courses or creating an educational reimbursement program for your staff,
- Properly recognizing your employees for completing their continuing education courses by offering promotions and advancement opportunities, and
- Making time for nurses to maintain their licensing instead of asking them to juggle their workplace responsibilities and training simultaneously.
Remember: Although retention is the goal, you'll attract more loyalty by offering workplace freedom. The harder you make it for nurses to further their careers on their terms, the more likely they'll be to seek a more accommodating employer.
- Relieve Operational Burdens
While their main focus is on providing care to patients with conditions or diseases of the urinary tract, urology nurses must master a broad range of symptoms and diagnostic procedures. For instance, they need to be able to distinguish between conditions such as urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney stones, and cancers of the urethra even though these ailments can produce similar symptoms.
Having to keep all of that knowledge in mind is tough, demanding, and stressful, to say the least. While having a well-informed team is the best way to achieve favorable patient outcomes, your nurses also deserve breathing room.
Adjusting your staffing practices might help. For instance, you could outsource some components of your nurses’ workload to vendors, freeing your staff to focus on other key areas. For example, you can outsource urodynamics staffingor all urodynamics testing to Brighter Health Network (BHN) as they provide both urodynamics staffing and turn-key urodynamics testing. Similarly, if you have a large urodynamics backlog, you could have BHN come in temporarily to clear the backlog which will reduce the stress and strain on your nursing team.
- Create a Positive, Healthy Work Environment
Creating a positive work environment is essential for retaining nursing talent. Make sure your nurses feel valued and appreciated.
One potentially effective way to help your workplace migrate to a healthier reality is to offer programs tailored toward building support networks. One 2022 study suggested that worker support programs can help urology nurses avoid burnout by providing them with opportunities to connect with other professionals, receive training and support, and access resources. These initiatives can also make nurses feel less alone as they tackle their work by helping them establish ties with their peers – which become invaluable resources when it comes to taking on new professional challenges or asking for help.
Does Your Nursing Team Feel Supported?
Although medicine is a high-stress field, overworked nurses shouldn't be the norm. You may never eliminate all workplace stress factors, but by taking proactive steps to relieve strain, you can build a better work environment that encourages nurses to build long, rewarding careers with your team.
İlhan, M. N., Durukan, E., Taner, E., Maral, I., & Bumin, M. A. (2008). Burnout and its correlates among nursing staff: questionnaire survey. Journal of advanced nursing, 61(1), 100–106. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04476.x
Jarosz, K., Zborowska, A., & Młynarska, A. (2022). Rationing Care, Job Satisfaction, Fatigue and the Level of Professional Burnout of Nurses in Urology Departments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(14), 8625. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/14/8625/htm
Taneja, R. (2020). Urology practice in COVID-19 era, Indian perspective. Apollo Medicine, 17(3), 180.