Nurses working together in hospital

Researchers have found that nursing homes with leaders demonstrably committed to worker safety, health and well-being had staff turnover rates 10% lower than facilities with leaders who did not champion these traits.

With workforce shortages increasingly threatening the long-term care industry over the past decade, scientists have started looking into potential links between administrative efforts and staff resignations. 

“Often, the aspects of leadership that focus on workers in healthcare are overlooked, and we wanted to see whether worker-focused leadership was associated with turnover rates,” explained researcher Jessica Williams, an associate professor in Pennsylvania State University’s College of Health and Human Development.

Williams and colleagues discovered that leaders who prioritized worker well-being, drove accountability and provided staff with ample resources created positive working conditions and increased staff members’ willingness to stay on the job. Their study was recently published in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (JAMDA).

“From cleaning to providing patient care, all employees can improve the organization if given the chance to work in a safe and respectful environment,” Williams said. “Communicating the importance of worker safety, health and well-being is a great start, but must be reinforced with resources and demonstrated with actions.” 

Linking turnover

Investigators examined staff information from 495 nursing homes across California, Ohio and Massachusetts to reach their conclusions. Staff rated four statements assessing their organization’s articulation of 1) worker safety, 2) health and 3) well-being as priorities. 

Researchers chose these three factors to be determinants of successful leadership due to their presence in the Workplace Integrated Safety and Health (WISH) Assessment that measures working conditions. Two of the statements that respondents were asked to react to were: “Worker health and safety are part of the organization’s mission, vision or business objectives” and “The organization allocates enough resources, such as enough workers and money to implement policies or programs to protect and promote worker safety and health.” 

After staff members provided their responses, directors of nursing submitted the ratings to researchers. Williams and her team said facilities scoring above the median were determined to have a measure of leadership that supports worker safety, health and well-being.

After determining individual scores for each nursing home, scientists then collected worker retention rates from administrative payrolls. They determined that homes with higher leadership scores had lower unadjusted turnover rates with fewer individuals removed from the payroll.

By collecting data from payrolls and surveys within each facility, researchers were able to identify leadership as an important trait in reducing the number of nursing staff stepping down from their positions. 

It is possible for leaders to revise current leadership strategies to compel positive change, Williams told McKnight’s. She recommends the following tools for nursing leaders: