1. Hader, Richard RN, PhD, CNA, CHE, CPHQ, Editor-in-Chief

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My 17-year-old daughter is dating a young man. As a highly protective father, I ask her frequent questions-and obtain few answers. So, I rely on my assessment abilities and evaluate the situation for myself. Using direct observation skills, I note that she appears satisfied with the relationship: She talks to him frequently and enjoys his company. She's retained interests outside of her relationship and is making future plans that don't include her boyfriend. My conclusion: She's in a relationship that's appropriate for her age; she's neither committed to nor engaged in the relationship. As a father, I'm thrilled!!


As leaders, we interact with nurses who appear highly satisfied with their roles within our organizations. Each time they're scheduled, they come to work on time, deliver great patient care, and maintain positive interpersonal relationships. These nurses require minimal supervision and act as model employees. For these reasons, I believed that they'd remain with my organization for many years to come.


Don't assume

Unknown to me, some of these same nurses were planning to leave. When I received a letter of resignation from one of my top performers, I was devastated because I didn't predict this occurrence. Despite her apparent satisfaction, she said her current role wasn't meeting her career expectations. She was neither committed to nor engaged in the medical center. The result: A highly skilled and educated professional was lost to another facility.


In today's competitive market for nurses, this scenario frequently occurs. As managers, we need to distinguish between nurses who are merely satisfied and those who are highly engaged in our organizations. A strong difference in retention rates exists between satisfied staff members and those fully engaged in building and sustaining long-term relationships with their employers. It's incumbent on us as nurse leaders to assess each staff member's engagement and not just make assumptions based solely on clinical performance.


Advocate growth

Periodically, take the time to discuss each nurse's plan for the future. Are you providing opportunities for staff members to fulfill their career goals? To maximize engagement, develop an individualized strategic plan for each nurse. Determine professional "goal posts" for the next one, three, and five years. Offer your assistance, expertise, and commitment to helping nurses achieve their goals.


Invite staff members to participate in making departmental decisions by implementing shared governance councils. Offering nurses authority and control over decisions that affect them fosters professional growth and autonomy while simultaneously promoting an engaged workforce. Create an environment that goes beyond satisfaction to one of unwavering commitment.