Healthcare leaders who engaged employees through continuous listening strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic gained actionable insights into the health and wellness of their workforce. Listening also helped organizations improve job satisfaction and nurse retention during a time of high turnover—and a troubling nursing shortage. 

Cleveland Clinic is a shining example of how listening to nurses during a crisis directly led to action, helping them decrease RN turnover and improve nurse retention rates. The healthcare organization leveraged pulse surveys, which allowed it to understand how to promote caregiver wellness when the stressors and pressures of patient care peaked. 

Cleveland Clinic created the Office of Caregiver Experience, led by Kelly Hancock, RN, to unify its 70,000 caregivers system-wide in all elements of the professional care continuum, from pre-hiring to retirement and beyond.  All aspects of employee engagement—including professional growth and development, health and well-being, recruitment, retention, compensation, diversity, and inclusion—fall under specific business units that support each area.   

Cleveland Clinic also took a hard look at its professional nurse persona. The system conducted focus groups to better understand personnel, then launched a campaign around what it means to be a nurse at the Cleveland Clinic. Promoting a positive image of nursing in this way reinforces Magnet® values and positively influences employee engagement among healthcare workers. The office is also defining health and well-being strategies for caregivers.  

The initial framework for the system-wide well-being initiative included a governance council that represented different constituents and disciplines across the healthcare organization. Wellness programs include virtual interdisciplinary peer-to-peer support groups, mindfulness activities, and bereavement support. These programs, along with Cleveland Clinic’s other wellness resources and initiatives, are housed in the “Hero Handbook for Leaders,” giving leaders—who are on the front lines themselves—easy access to programs that they can suggest to employees.   

Providing a diverse set of well-being resources all but ensures every nurse finds a program or solution that supports their physical and mental health. In this way, Cleveland Clinic is taking a proactive stance against nurse burnout. Hancock and her team are eager to see results from their biannual Press Ganey survey to learn what additional programs might be helpful to further improve nurse satisfaction.   

“It is when people are at their most vulnerable that they need their voices heard. We didn’t hesitate to pulse survey, and it turned out to be the highest participation survey we’ve had to date. We used the feedback to develop different initiatives, such as resiliency programs, better peer-to-peer support, and more wellness options.” —Kelly Hancock, Chief Caregiver Officer, Cleveland Clinic 

Key takeaway: Check in on your nursing workforce’s well-being and mental health.  

Those in the nursing profession face extreme conditions in their pursuit of optimal patient outcomes through the delivery of high-quality patient care. Many hospitals have put well-being programs in place to support the physical, psychological, and emotional health of employees, but they don’t have data to show whether the resources made available have made an impact on nursing staff. Nurses have routinely reported the highest levels of stress during the pandemic, so run regular pulse surveys across your healthcare facility to review whether their engagement and well-being have been positively affected when they take advantage of the help provided to them. 

This is the second article in our three-part “RN Crisis” series. Check out our first article featuring Bon Secours nursing leaders to see how they reduced and prevented RN turnover through a flexible staffing model, and our third article exploring how UCLA Health assessed its leadership structure and opened communication between unit directors and the C-suite.