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Strategies for Building a Sustainable Nursing Workforce


Nursing and staffing shortages continue to be a pain point for leaders facing the increasing demand for care at home. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to address these challenges, a panel of industry leaders shared pathways to sustain the nursing workforce at the 2024 ̲app, Growth, Innovation and Leadership Experience (AGILE).

Marcylle Combs, President and Owner of MAC Legacy, moderated the session with panelists Marcia B. Proto, Executive Director of The Connecticut Center for Nursing Workforce, Inc; Kayla Davis, Research Specialist for Texas Center of Nursing Workforce Studies; Clark Ruttinger, Director of Health Workforce Consulting and Life Sciences Consulting at Global Data; and Kathy Driscoll, Chief Nursing Officer at Humana.

The panel discussed the growth surrounding the care at home industry and strategies leaders should focus on to attract and retain nurses to meet the increased demand.

Spotlight on Data

The panelists highlighted the importance of understanding data when discussing staffing challenges and ways to accommodate the growing care at home market.

“Looking at nurses in home health, they’re almost two times, 1.8 times, more likely to leave employment in home health than in hospitals,” Ruttinger said. “They’re also 2.1 times more likely to leave the workforce altogether than a hospital nurse.”

Leaders are also encouraged to analyze the data to better understand movement trends among nurses seeking new opportunities.

“When you’re looking to get nurses into home health, you’re four times more likely to have a nurse come from residential care than a hospital,” Ruttinger said. “We have to consider, you know, increase in demand because of elderly populations, but also competition between not just industries, but also settings within the healthcare industry itself as we look at what’s going on into the future.”

Davis drew attention to the data on the length of time it is taking organizations to fill nursing positions.

“91-plus days, that’s how long it was taking to fill positions by nurse type,” Davis said.

Proto emphasized that organizations need to collaborate with state entities to identify and accurately report the challenges nurses are facing, some of which hinder them from entering or staying in the care at home industry.

“We learned more information about [the reasoning], everything from not on a bus route, as well as the hours of work, as well as how do I get to the different home locations if I don’t have transportation,” Proto said. “So, we were really excluding a lot of very good people from the world of home care.”

Sustaining Your Workforce

The panelists encouraged leaders to first focus on listening to the needs of nurses to support their well-being and ultimately retain them and meet the growing home care demand.

“For our organization, the first thing that we really needed to do was make sure we are listening to our nurses,” Driscoll said. “We can all think we know what nurses are feeling, what they value.”

Organizations should also take a strong look at the career and professional development programs offered and tailor them to meet evolving needs of their workforce.

“We relooked at our educational benefit; we had a very traditional tuition reimbursement benefit,” Driscoll said. “We found that people weren’t going for the degree they wanted because they couldn’t afford to put the money out to get reimbursed, or it just was too much toll on their family situation or their life situation at the moment. So, people wanted to be reimbursed for certifications. They wanted opportunities for microlearning.”

The panelists discussed building partnerships, encouraging leaders to focus on partnering with more than just nursing schools. Leaders need to emphasize that nurses are needed in more than just hospitals.

“We really focused on partnering with schools and thinking [about] what those schools needed, just to expose student nurses, our future nurses, to home health and to the community as a setting that they could really enjoy, thrive in, make a difference,” Driscoll said. “We made an investment, with Emory University, in building a simulation lab that was a home. It’s an apartment. What we found was that they really didn’t have the curricula that reflected what home health is like, what care in the home really is like.”

The panelists concluded the session by encouraging organizations to look at the leadership structure of the business, making sure that the right clinicians are being put into leadership positions and building policy around those needs.

“There’s an assumption that because you’re a good clinician, you’re going to be a good leader,” Driscoll said. “Well, that’s kind of rolling the dice there.”

Davis added, “We want good leadership. People stay for leadership.”

With more than 350 attendees, more than 50 sponsors and countless connections made, AGILE 2024 was a massive success for everyone. .

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