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Thwart a Looming Nurse Strike with 3 Specific Talent Engagement Tactics

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Kerry Fuqua
on June 24, 2016

For the first time in 30 years, nurses at Brigham and Women’s, one of Boston’s major academic medical centers, are threatening a one-day strike on Monday, June 27th. The possible strike is the result of mounting tensions over treatment, compensation and other benefits from the Partners HealthCare-owned facility.

A nurse strike can have significant impact on patient care.  While each person within a healthcare organization’s walls has the ability to impact a patient’s experience, nurses are more often than not the organization’s frontlines, triaging and providing the immediate patient care and fostering relationships with those patients over time. Better patient experiences lead to improved HCAHPS, which benefits the entire organization. Nurses are an invaluable piece of the patient experience.

In less acute-care scenarios, nurses are often the first healthcare professionals that patients are in contact with. They are the ones who return phone calls on behalf of primary care physicians, alerting patients of their test results, answering questions, and assessing situations over the phone.

With nurses at the center of the healthcare matrix, it’s imperative that healthcare organizations mitigate overall employment engagement strategies before it’s too late. You don’t need to overhaul your current practices in order to prevent a situation like this from boiling over at your organization; effective tools to mitigate something like this are right at your fingertips.

1. Offer competitive compensation and put a system in place to support it.

The average Brigham and Women’s nurse makes $106,000 per year, in addition to benefits. It’s important to make nurse engagement a priority, before the risk of strike.  Behind your organization’s compensation structure should be the strength of a system that enables evidence-based compensation practices. Advanced compensation tools, like PeopleFluent Compensation, give you the flexibility to pay according to contracts and employment agreements.  Pay for accountability is possible by aligning compensation with performance management.  Your compensation system should work in sync with your other talent management systems so changes to processes in one can be easily be reflected in another.

2. Provide ongoing performance feedback.

The threat of a looming nurse strike might make you cringe, but check-ins with your staff - nurses and others - can certainly bring issues to the attention of managers before the situation reaches a tipping point. Frequent and ongoing performance management and talent engagement are the new norm. Taking a reactive stance to employee engagement puts your organization at a disadvantage. Nurses at Brigham and Women’s cite feeling underappreciated and “want to be valued again.” Keeping your talent engaged and happy should be a critical responsibility of your HR department. It’s not enough to just assume -you need to provide regular, frequent performance feedback. Talent management is moving quickly towards an always-on, 24/7 model. This is not just a trend but a confirmation that your talent needs and deserves ongoing performance feedback. 

3. Continuously strive to engage your employees.

Unengaged employees are 10% less effective than their engaged peers. Engaging employees goes beyond asking their satisfaction level. It means giving them rewarding, challenging work and optimizing their commitment to your organization and your patients. Providing a learning management system and Communities of Care will help ensure your talent is up-to-date on the most recent healthcare developments, and feel connected and collaborative. Feeling valued and emotional comfort at a job takes more than just a paystub; it requires the human side of patient care. Healthcare organizations should think of staff engagement in the same way they think about patient satisfaction – holistically. Managers, pay, and internal culture, are among many other things that contribute directly to an employee’s satisfaction (or lack thereof).  The onus is on the organization to facilitate a culture of engagement.

Strikes can happen in any union-based work environment. However, in a town known for its excellence in healthcare organizations – more than 20 hospitals call Boston proper home – the time to optimize your organization’s retention, happiness and satisfaction is now. If there’s anything to take away from the Brigham and Women’s possible nurse strike, it’s that there is always improvement to be made when it comes to your healthcare talent management strategies.

Learn more about how to better support nurses in your healthcare organization with our free guide.


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