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5 proven strategies for boosting staff engagement and satisfaction

Jan 4, 2024

In today’s challenging clinical landscape, addressing nurse staff engagement may be more important than ever. But leadership teams can become so entangled in the minutiae of the day that it hinders the ability to focus on staff engagement.

The consequences are clear: a sense of monotony, waning commitment, a surge in complaints, discontent, and an “us vs. them” mentality. And when left to fester, we can see the results in today’s news headlines, including an increase in nurse union organizing and activity. This in and of itself should be a call to action for leaders!

Based on my experience as a nurse leader, here are five tips I believe can help you move in the right direction.

  1. Listen, observe and assess

To uncover the root causes of staff dissatisfaction, cultivate a culture of psychological safety. Actively listen and observe with empathy – and humility – while refraining from defensiveness or taking feedback personally. Assess unit metrics to gauge nurse satisfaction levels. Distinguish between symptoms and root issues, ensuring solutions address the core problems rather than ultimately exacerbating them.

  1. Meet baseline needs first

Identify and address baseline needs following the principles of Maslow’s Hierarchy (see image). Establish a strong foundation by meeting fundamental requirements, like appropriate staffing levels or not skipping breaks. Only by satisfying these basic needs can you reach higher levels of performance, engagement and satisfaction.

  1. It takes a team

Engage the entire team in the problem-solving process and create shared goals. Collaborate and establish a culture of transparency and inclusiveness as you work toward these goals. And remember to celebrate the little victories along the way! 

  1. Measure and evaluate solutions

Before implementing solutions, establish quantitative or qualitative metrics for success. Whether addressing staffing ratios or other challenges, create tangible benchmarks for progress. This ensures the team can visibly track achievements toward the shared goal.

  1. Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA)

Achieving success is just the beginning. Continually assess and adjust as needed to stay on course. Acknowledge when course corrections are necessary. Once success is maintained, the team can tackle new challenges, addressing higher-level needs in the Hierarchy.

Effective nurse leadership demands an ongoing commitment to awareness and humility. Don’t just sugarcoat and cheerlead. Instead, approach objectives with a realistic mindset. Staff engagement grows as leaders demonstrate dedication to recognizing and addressing challenges.

Never stop in the pursuit of engaging and improvement – it’s the only path to lasting success.