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A few months ago I heard the president of Southwest Airlines being interviewed on National Public Radio. The interviewer was spouting statistics affirming Southwest's financial success at a time when most airlines have been operating at a deficit. With bated breath the interviewer asked, "And what do you attribute your company's outstanding success?" He immediately replied, "People!! We are where we are and have been able to stay successful because of the wonderful people who work with me."


Wow!! What a new concept!!


Management books have devoted countless chapters stressing the importance of having excellent leaders who role model for staff, a staff that is the best and brightest identifying talent, investing in it, and then focusing on supporting the company's investment by creative and innovative retention strategies.


What do home care organizations spend the majority of their resources on? People. Why not invest in them?


In our December 2003 issue, I was thrilled to publish Dr. Linda Flynn's ground-breaking study on the "Agency Characteristics Most Valued by Home Care Nurses." I'm hoping that many readers weren't totally surprised by her findings, but I've already heard from several who were. Who guessed that home care nurses' top response to what they wanted in their job was support for education? Opportunities to attend conferences and seminars were one of the items mentioned consistently, yet you rarely see home care nurses at state association conferences. So focused are home care agencies on keeping their nurses in the field maximizing productivity that many state conferences no longer have clinical content at their annual conferences.


The second trait nurses said would make them stay?A knowledgeable and supportive front-line supervisor!! Yet, like the clinicians kept in the field, front-line managers are rarely encouraged to attend state and national conferences to mix with others and develop new ideas. Supervisors who do attend meetings hold agency positions such as OBQI, education, administration, special programs, or administration. With little subject matter dealing with disease management and clinical issues at these meetings, it's little wonder they're not encouraged to attend.


The other eight traits identified by the respondents were not entirely surprising. They're the traits I've always wanted in a job.


I realize there's a nursing shortage, yet we must return to the basics. I constantly hear at meetings and read on listservs that managers want to know what they can do to retain employees. There's no magic bullet to recruiting and retaining people. The job is rough; home care has been regulated beyond belief and it can be a lonely day for those gregarious people drawn to home care for the real patient interactions.


However, if we revisit the basics of management, think carefully about Dr. Flynn's research outcomes and don't believe in quick fixes-we can succeed. Look for the result of HHN's recent online survey asking real home care nurses how much their agencies were implementing the 10 traits in an upcoming issue!!