Shortage of nurses in social care: Strong management key to increasing retention

The recruitment and retention of nursing staff has long been a significant challenge for care providers and a recent survey by the National Care Forum has confirmed that this is a growing issue. The workforce of 60 organisations, encompassing over 64,000 employees, was surveyed and provided detailed information on nursing across adult social care.

Considerable attention has been directed at staffing levels in the last year as the care services face a period of transition. The ageing demography of the population, greater personalisation and funding concerns are all transforming the adult social care workforce, and this is impacting on both the recruitment and retention of nurses within the sector.

The survey revealed a great variation in the turnover of nursing staff, ranging from zero to an alarming 83% across different organisations, implying that this has something to do with contrasting management strategies.

Conversely, the reasons behind nurses taking up employment elsewhere were consistent. The main explanations for leaving their positions centred around having different expectations for a role, other employers paying more and the opinion that the NHS offers greater opportunities – a view that needs to be addressed.

With turnover rates on the rise as social care providers compete with the health sector, it’s clear that management needs to address the issue of staff retention as a priority, if it is to avert a major staffing crisis.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has found that continuing professional development and in service training, is a major factor in staff retention. Similarly, the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care has found evidence of a correlation between high levels of retention and qualification levels held. It is important that leaders offer staff pathways to professional advancement and career progression.

It is also imperative that managers recognise and reward achievements as research has highlighted how retention rates rise when staff feel valued and respected, enabled and supported, and if they are given responsibility, autonomy and suitable levels of remuneration.

Providing continuous and structured feedback to employees through performance reviews will also help to keep them motivated and enable management to hear any concerns staff may have before its too late.

As life expectancy increases year on year, the number of people who will require social care and health support will increase dramatically. The shortage of nurses therefore threatens to undermine service development and integration, and could consequently impair the quality of care offered.

Leaders within the sector need to take responsibility for staffing levels and make the necessary changes to address retention rates.

If your organisation is struggling with its retention, Cater Schwartz can help.