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3 Strategies for Improving Nursing Engagement

An engaged nursing workforce is critical to nearly every aspect of patient care
Rob Marmion/

Nurses are the heart of every healthcare system. They are often the first healthcare professional a patient sees when they arrive to the hospital, and they are on the front lines of evaluating and administering the patients’ treatment. Nurses are not only expert caregivers; they are also educators, counselors, and the patients’ strongest advocate.

The nursing profession is a true calling. It requires working long demanding shifts in a fast-paced, stressful work environment. Nursing requires selflessness, patience, compassion, empathy, emotional and physical strength, and an unwavering commitment to patient care. Nurses enter the field wanting to make a difference and save lives. When provided with the support and resources necessary to be successful in their work, nursing engagement increases.

However, maintaining constant compassion and empathy in a high-stress work environment can be challenging for anyone. According to a recent report by PRC, based on the survey findings of over 2,000 healthcare partners, researchers found that 15.6% of all nurses reported feelings of burnout, and 41% reported feeling “unengaged.”

Unengaged nurses can be detrimental to a healthcare system. They are physically present but emotionally checked out, and these characteristics are evident in how patients perceive their quality of care. Unengaged nurses and those experiencing burnout have emotional exhaustion and feel disconnected to patients and leadership. They lack confidence in their organization and the ability to overcome challenges at work. Not only is there a possibility of turnover, it can curb the hospital’s ability to achieve excellence in patient care.

Evidence has demonstrated the correlation between nursing engagement and safety, quality, and outcomes. In fact, it is considered a key factor in preventing complications and mortality variation. Research conducted by Gallup found that nursing engagement is a primary factor in determining healthcare quality and preventing complications. In addition, the level of commitment and emotional involvement of nurses on staff was found to be even more important than their overall numbers.

Nurses who are fully engaged exhibit positive characteristics such as empathy and compassion that are associated with patient connection. As a result, they are more responsive and provide patients with a better experience. Fully engaged nurses are more connected to their hospitals, have fewer voluntary absences, are more efficient and effective when providing patient care, and also less likely to be at risk for burnout.

As nursing shortages increase and the demand for healthcare services continues to grow, healthcare leaders must make nursing engagement a strategic priority. A committed and engaged nursing staff requires a high level of interpersonal and workplace support from leadership and teammates. Other factors such as autonomy, teamwork and collaboration, staffing and resources, and leadership access and responsiveness are also factors in nursing engagement.

According to the research conducted by PRC, hospitals seeking to improve nursing engagement should focus on the following three things:

  1. Involvement Include and involve nursing leadership and nursing professionals as active participants in decision-making that impacts the organization and patient care. It is essential that nurses believe that leadership values their opinions. Additionally, the ability to trust team members and leaders are key factors in nursing engagement.
  2. Teamwork and Respect– Create an environment of teamwork, respect, and collaboration between nurses and other healthcare professionals. Nurses are more likely to be engaged when they feel like they are a part of a supportive team that respects one another and works together.
  3. Ensure Accessibility and Responsiveness– Ensure leadership is accessible to nurses and responsive to their needs. Nurses are more likely to be fully engaged if leadership is accessible and considered trustworthy and responsive. In fact, when nurses have a trusting relationship with their leadership, they are more likely to exhibit characteristics such as innovative thinking, ownership in their work, and a higher level of commitment.

Creating an environment of engagement is not a quick fix and likely won’t happen overnight. It requires an ongoing commitment from leadership to support and restore purpose and trust. However, the result can have a ripple effect on nearly every aspect of care, including the bottom line. Improving nursing engagement can positively impact patient care, patient experience, safety, quality, and outcomes, and there are not many other initiatives can claim a similar ROI.

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About Anne Carrie

Anne Carrie holds an MBA in Healthcare Management and a BS in Marketing. Her experience includes over 10 years of healthcare marketing, administration, recruiting, and business development. She has over 4 years of healthcare writing, copywriting, and editing experience for Hospitals, Medical Practices, and Medical/Healthcare companies. Her work has been published in Becker's Hospital Review, Medical Practice Insider, Physicians Practice, DenistryIQ, HealthITOutcomes, and other healthcare related publications.