‘Servant Leadership’ Retains Healthcare Staff
Listen to employees and value them
A recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on the future of nursing — which focused primarily on expanding access to the profession through education and training — concluded with this cogent point: “Simply put, efforts to train more nurses are futile if those nurses leave the workplace.”1
Given the exodus of nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and projected future shortages, a new study2 revealed three critical reasons nurses quit: “[L]ack or loss of buffering factors, not owning your spare time, and not feeling valued by and listened to by upper management.” The study was conducted in Sweden but cited multiple international resources and references.
Feeling undervalued and unheard by leaders probably is the most influential reason in terms of nurse retention. Researchers noted the literature on this issue revealed a style called “servant leadership” results in strong employee retention. This includes considering “how supportive factors in nurses’ closest work environment” may be undermined by some higher-level institutional decisions. Listening to employees about the effects of the changes can make them feel valued in their job.
One American study cited in the paper noted servant leadership includes moral and spiritual aspects, as demonstrated by administrators of nursing or other executive functions who are “caring leaders who maintain belief in others, strive to understand the other person’s perspective, are emotionally present, provide services and help as appropriate, and facilitate another’s development.”3 This type of leadership correlated with job satisfaction in nurses and higher rates of retention in hospitals.
Buffering factors that help retain nurses include collegiality with coworkers and a stimulating job with varying duties. “[These factors], to some extent, serve as a buffer for high demands at work. A lack or loss of these kinds of buffering factors contributed to intentions to leave,” the authors reported.
Another critical factor in intentions to leave is how individual nurses experience “not owning their spare time.” This is an ongoing issue that was exacerbated during the pandemic, in terms of nurses coordinating their personal life as well as their needs for work recovery.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Future of Nursing 2020–2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity. 2021. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
- Eriksson A, Vulkan P, Dellve L. A case study of critical reasons behind hospital nurses turnover due to challenges across system levels. J Multidiscip Healthc 2022;15: 1213-1224.
- Amadeo CA. A correlational study of servant leadership and registered nurse job satisfaction in acute health-care settings [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Phoenix. 2008.
The authors of a recent report on the future of nursing concluded with this cogent point: “Simply put, efforts to train more nurses are futile if those nurses leave the workplace.”
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