Keeping Your Nurses: 10 Tips for Nurse Retention Strategies – Show this List to your Boss

As a charge nurse at a busy hospital in the Chicago area, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges of keeping great nurses on the staff roster.

With the nursing shortage and nurse burnout reaching critical levels nationwide, retention is more important than ever.

After years of learning what motivates nurses to stay.

Here are the 10 tips for Nurse Retention Strategies:

Nurse Retention Strategies

1. Show Nurses the Money

Let’s face it – compensation is key. With salaries for travel nurses skyrocketing, you’ve got to pay competitively.

Here are effective ways on how to show nurses the money:

Perform regular salary benchmarking

Adjust wages to match or exceed market rates.

Build compensation packages

Advocate pay based on years of service, as this will encourage the recruitment of seasoned nurses with 10+ years experience.

Institute annual merit-based raise programs

Prioritize rewarding high performers. Make sure hard working nurses see their pay rise each year.

Offer generous sign-on and retention bonuses

Bonuses will increase with longevity and employee satisfaction.

For example, pay $5,000 sign-on bonuses to new hires, $10,000 retention bonuses after 3 years, and $15,000 after 5 years.

Enhance healthcare plans

Cover higher percentages of premiums or lowering deductibles. Add other perks like dental, vision, disability or life insurance.

Provide 401(k) matching up to 6% of salary.

Increase retirement benefits over time to encourage nurse retention rates.

Offer tuition reimbursement programs

Explore tuition assistance programs that fully cover many nurses with advanced nursing degrees and certifications.

Reward specialty certifications with bonuses

Impose automatic pay increases, and clinical ladder advancement for specialize certifications: CNOR, CNRN, PMHNP, etc.

Evaluate pay equity across roles and departments.

Rectify discrepancies transparently.

2. Cultivate a Family Atmosphere  

Get to know your nurses as people, not just skilled clinicians. Celebrate milestones together like birthdays, weddings, retirements.

Pre-covid, my unit loved our annual summer picnic in the marina and boat parties with food, games and music.

Treating each other with kindness and respect daily fosters a supportive environment. An open-door policy and listening without judgment relieves stress.  

Celebrate nurses

Observe occasions on National Nurses Week with special events, meals, gifts, and swag. Highlight exemplary nurses.

Nurse Gift Ideas

Give frequent praise and recognition for nurses who go above and beyond. Do this publicly at meetings and privately in one-on-one conversations.

Create time for team building exercises

Facilitate cohesion and fun with team building exercises, group outings, potlucks, and other social events.

Annual Staff Satisfaction Survey

Listen to nurses by conducting surveys on workplace culture issues and develop improvement plans based on feedback.

3. Create Avenues for Advancement

Offer clear pathways for nurses to advance their careers through ongoing education, certifications and promotions.

Create nurse leadership training programs and offer tuition reimbursement. Enable nurses to cross-train in different departments and specialties to broaden their skills. Support nurses in professional development goals to retain talent.

Ambitious nurses will move on if they feel stuck. “Where can I go from here?” is a common question.

Create clinical ladders with competitive salaries at each step as nurses gain experience and education.

Cover exam fees for specialty certifications and offer generous tuition reimbursement. Nurses appreciate being able to expand skills into new arenas. Investing in their growth leads to loyalty.

4. Partner New Nurses with Mentors

Pair new nurse graduates with experienced registered nurse and mentors. Formal mentorship programs provide guidance and support which improves satisfaction and retention rates among newer nurses.

Nurse residency programs are also key for successfully transitioning newly licensed nurses into the workforce.

Like a mother bird teaches her young to fly, experienced nurses can guide new nurses towards success.

Formal mentorship programs ensure every newbie is paired with a veteran mentor. Meet monthly to discuss concerns, set goals, and celebrate achievements.

It’s rewarding to watch these relationships evolve and the new nurses gain confidence. 

5. Involve Nurses in Decision Making

Authoritarian leadership doesn’t fly with today’s nursing workforce. Including staff nurses in committees, councils, and projects gives them a voice in policies affecting them.

For example, we revamped nurse-patient ratios based on staffing shortages and on input from a staffing committee. Shared governance models empower nurses and make them feel valued.

Involve nurses in decision making processes through shared governance structures. Include staff, nurse leaders and nurses on committees that address policy, quality improvement and evidence-based practices.

Nurse councils and committees allow nurses to have a voice and feel engaged in their organization.

Shared Governance

6. Help Nurses Unwind and Recharge

This is emotionally draining work. After a traumatic code or patient death, make counseling available. Encourage taking breaks, decompressing after shifts, and using all PTO.

The demanding nature of the nursing profession often leads to burnout. Encourage nurses to take breaks, use vacation time and maintain healthy work-life integration.

Offer flexible scheduling options when possible so nurses can attend to personal needs. Build in time for nurses to unwind and debrief after difficult situations.

  • Offer arrangements like 12-hour shifts, partial overtime, weekends-only, and night shift options. Seek direct input from nurses on preferred schedules.

  • Allow nurses increased flexibility and control over their schedules whenever possible. Implement self-scheduling systems that permit shift trades and modifications.

  • Promote mental health and wellbeing through counseling benefits, workshops, support groups, and trainings on resilience tactics. Be alert for burnout signals.

  • Promote psychological safety so nurses feel comfortable speaking up about concerns or mistakes without fear of retribution. Focus on collective learning rather than blame.

7. Provide the Latest Tools and Technology

Outdated equipment and inefficient workflows are nurse frustrations. Budget for state-of-the-art monitors, IV pumps, and charting systems. Stay on top of maintenance issues.

Ask nurses what other tools they need. Having input on improving their work environment keeps them engaged.

Give nurses the resources they need to provide excellent patient care. Invest in technologies like electronic health records, smart IV pumps and mobile communication devices to further improve patient outcomes, efficiency and safety.

Keep facilities and equipment well-maintained. Empower nurses to identify areas needing improvement.

Advanced Electronic Health Record Charting System

8. Focus on Nurse Safety

Nurses face elevated risks for workplace injury and illness. Make nurse safety a top priority through violence prevention programs, safe patient handling training and equipment, readily available PPE, and zero tolerance policies for abuse.

Nurses will stay where they feel safe and supported.

9. Offer Robust Continuing Education 

Lifelong learning is integral in this ever-changing field. Host skills labs for new specialty procedures or equipment. Bring in experts for grand rounds on emerging treatments.

Sponsor nurses to attend conferences relevant to their practice areas. Make available the latest nursing journals and e-learning modules. Investing in continuing education is key to job satisfaction.  

Provide continuing education, specialty certifications, skills labs and in-services. as nursing leaders. Well-trained nurses have higher job satisfaction.

Offer training on new equipment, procedures and therapies. Support nurses learning through conferences, grand rounds, journal clubs and tuition assistance.

10. Spotlight and Reward Nurses 

Find ways large and small to recognize nurses’ accomplishments. Monthly awards for clinical excellence or patient satisfaction.

A peer-voted “Nurse of the Year” award announced at the holiday dinner. Publicize nurse managers’ achievements in newsletters. Performance incentives like clinical ladder programs give nurses something to strive towards.

Sincere praise and letting nurses know they are valued keeps spirits high.

Praise nurses directly for providing excellent care, going above and beyond, pitching in during times of need and being team players.

Nurse of the Year


The nursing shortage makes retention vital, but keeping nurses engaged and motivated has always been paramount.

Focusing on the human side – not just skills and tasks – of nurse turnover is key. Nurses who feel appreciated, supported, and empowered deliver better care.

Investing in the nursing team means investing in patient outcomes and the health of the organization.

Follow these tips to improve nurse job satisfaction, reduce nurse turnover rates further, and cultivate an empowered, skilled nursing staff. Supporting and investing in nurses pays dividends through improved quality care, safety, and patient outcomes.

 What retention tips have worked for you?

I welcome sharing ideas to create workplaces where nurses want to stay.

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