Millennial Nurse Retention Strategies

While nursing shortages and nurse attrition are expensive, healthcare organizations must find ways to attract and retain good, young nurse candidates and groom some of them to fill future leadership roles. We know that high-quality nursing care and engaged nurse employees are crucial for patient satisfaction; with reimbursement often tied to patient satisfaction, the need to retain an excellent nursing workforce cannot be overstated. The cost to replace an existing nurse on staff is often quoted from $40,000 to $55,000, but the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing cites that an organizations loses $22,000 in productivity for every disengaged nurse!

A Fall 2017 AMN Healthcare study cites that 54% of nurses over 50 years of age are seriously considering retiring or moving to part-time work in the next 3 years. So be prepared for a loss of older nursing talent by building a meaningful nurse retention strategy to keep your young nurses. Nurses Week celebrations and monogrammed coffee mugs are fun, but not a substantive, continuous strategy for nurse retention and engagement. How do you begin building a meaningful Millennial nurse retention strategy?

Intermittent needs assessments – Millennials want real-time feedback, not annual reviews. 80% of Millennials want on-the-spot recognition over annual performance reviews. (FreshRN Poll, 373 votes). Provide real-time SMART goals that provide clear expectations, and make it a collaborative process with your young nurses.

Explain the meaning of work, and how it supports the organizations mission – 71% of Millennials state that meaningful work was among the three most important factors defining career success, and of this group, 30% consider meaningful work to be the most critical factor. Another study cites that 95% of Millennials said they are motivated to work harder when they understand the importance of a particular task within the context of the company’s big picture goals. So don’t plaster company values on the wall and expect that they will be absorbed and understood. Explain to young nurses what the mission is and how they support it, then make sure your actions align with the mission. If there is a change to the company mission statement, spend as much time providing context behind the change as the change itself.

Involve nurses in decision making – Millennial’s look for meaning in work a lot more than Gen X’ers or Boomers ever did. Millennials are more impressed by skills than they are by titles. So when decisions come from the top down, many young nurses will feel like they are not being polled or asked to opine in the changes. Tap young nurses for positions on committees and work groups. Don’t be surprised when they jump on the chance to discuss innovative time and cost-saving solutions.

Leadership development for young nurses – Effective nurse leaders make their Millennial nurses feel respected and valued, and they forge trusting relationships with their direct reports. Trust is essential in nurses’ relationships with leaders, if you want to retain and engage them. Young nurses like to be shown how employers invest and value their growth as a leader. NCharge®: “Nurses Learning to Lead” is an example of a curriculum built to help young nurses with their first supervisory position, Charge RN. Courses like Charge Nurse Fundamentals help young nurses employ strategies for making a smooth transition from peer to leader, apply qualities for successful leadership, and analyze the patient care and financial implications of hospital Value-Based Purchasing. A course like Managing Multi-generational Conflict can help young nurses resolve conflict and communicate effectively with older nurses. These courses prepare young nurses for more informed conversations with Nurse Managers and other hospital leaders.

Feel free to contact us to talk about NCharge: “Nurses Learning to Lead” by emailing

Staffing – Proper handling of staffing is a pain point for most facilities. Individual healthcare organizations can elect to create their own staffing ratios by utilizing nurse feedback and clinical outcomes data.

Mentoring – Many new young nurses feel unprepared to handle high acuity patients, and the attrition loss of year 1 nurses is cited anywhere from 20% or higher. Set up mentoring relationships with more experienced work peers for direction or encouragement. Spice it up by pairing Millennals with Gen Xers or Boomers, and encourage the young nurses to aid in technology transition or implementation. Reverse mentoring!

Work-life balance – Millennials care about productivity, but also care about work-life balance. Get to know your young nurses and find out how you can help them accomplish personal or family goals. Minor steps like recommending a free HR sponsored EAP personal finances course could go a long way in showing you and leadership care about well-being and associate’s personal lives. Scripps Health in San Diego offers nurses “Life Cycle” classes, which helps with nurses through personal life stages like entering the workforce, growing a family, and thinking about retirement.

Morale boosts – Additional tactics for boosting morale and keeping nurses on the job include recognizing great work, being available, rewarding loyalty, and focusing on orientation of new hires.

The shortage of nurses has forced healthcare employers to address not only training and recruitment issues but staff retention strategies as cost effective and beneficial to health outcomes. When RN turnover is high, morale, patient care and recruitment suffer. Retaining experienced nurses leads to stronger teams, better morale, improved care and significant cost savings.

“Wanted: meaningful nurse retention strategies,” Keith Carlson, ANA California publication, June 13, 2018
“The State of the Nursing Workforce: Millennials, Keeping It Real, and Making an Impact,” Kati Kleber, BSN, RN, CCRN
“Strategies for easing the role transition of graduate nurses,” Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, Merriam Young MS, RN; Diane Stuenkel, EdD, RN; Karen Bawel-Brinkley, PhD, RN