1. Foster, Rhonda R. EdD, MPH, MS, RN, NEA-BC

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Q Which postpandemic safety issues should I be concerned about?

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As a nurse leader, you have many priorities; safety is just one of the areas that you're focused on in your role. Organizational safety priorities include minimizing and, if possible, eliminating healthcare-associated infections, medication errors, patient and staff injuries, and workplace violence, to name a few. All of our efforts to maintain a culture of safety and prevent harm have a common denominator: They're dependent on the hands, hearts, and minds of our staff.


According to the 2021 McKinsey Future of Work in Nursing Survey, 22% of nurses indicated they may leave their current position providing direct patient care within the next year.1 This possibility impacts ongoing patient and staff safety initiatives. Many nurses have cited the demands and strain associated with the COVID-19 pandemic as their reason for exiting. Irrespective of the reason, it's more critical now than ever before that we strategize differently around how to recruit, retain, and nurture nurses and other support staff.


Although the strategies may be as unique as the environment, the community, and the overall impact of this potential loss, there are some recommendations that can benefit all leaders before leaping to conclusions and fixes:


* Listen to what your staff members are saying and identify the themes by shift, role classification, tenure, or any other factors that may lead a group to question the value of their voice.


* See who's struggling and may not be speaking. It's time to look into the eyes and faces of our caregivers. It may be difficult to see the hurt, yet more difficult to lose a nurse.


* Feel and use empathy when having conversations with staff members around responsibilities and their professional obligations. Nurses and other clinical staff may be struggling with caring for unvaccinated patients considering vaccines are available.


* Develop strategies and approaches based on the information gathered for your team.


* Collaborate with other leaders to identify best practices.



The Institute for Healthcare Improvement states that an organization can improve safety only when leaders are visibly committed to change and enable staff to openly share safety information.2 When an organization doesn't have a just culture, staff members are often unwilling to report adverse events and unsafe conditions because they fear reprisal or believe reporting won't result in change. Therefore, as we juggle priorities, it's extremely important to demonstrate concern and enable staff to provide insight into what's important for retaining them.




1. Berlin G, Lapointe M, Murphy M, Viscardi M. Nursing in 2021: retaining the healthcare workforce when we need it most. McKinsey & Company. 2021. [Context Link]


2. Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Develop a culture of safety. [Context Link]