Why Updating Job Descriptions Matters

Job descriptions highlight key role functions for both nurse candidates and employees. As recruitment and employment in health care evolves, updating role details will become more essential for nurses to complete their jobs effectively.

Since it’s not considered a mandatory practice in recruitment, updating job descriptions is not always prioritized. But these details give future and current employees the information they need about the job they’re taking on. This includes tasks they’ll complete, software they may use, their work hours, license requirements, compensation, and more.

Currently, there are no state or federal laws that require organizations to provide job descriptions. But having the most up-to-date job postings can be helpful for both practical and legal reasons, including ADA accommodations and workers’ compensation situations. Considering these components not only protects current and potential staff members — it protects you and your organization.

The importance of updating job descriptions

When it comes to updating position details, there are two things to consider: why and when it should be done. The “why” is because employees should know the expectations of their roles and the rules and regulations they need to follow, some of which are legal. Position details must be current, accurate, complete, concise, and easily understood by job applicants and current employees alike.

Completing these types of updates also allows you to show your organization’s mission, policies related to changing situations (e.g., natural disasters, COVID-19 pandemic), and commitments to organizational goals like diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). According to Robert Half, revising job descriptions to include these elements can demonstrate to candidates and employees what your priorities are and your level of transparency. Updating your current roles keeps employees informed and shows your organization’s ability to adapt and grow.

When reflecting on the status of your job descriptions, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time I looked at my positions to evaluate whether they are current and are meeting my needs and the needs of my managers and nursing staff?
  • Does my organization have guidelines on how frequently job descriptions should be reviewed and updated, and what should I include in these reviews?
  • Do I have a set schedule designed to keep myself on target with staying informed on the duties being carried out by employees in different roles?

When to revise

When to update job descriptions is just as essential. According to Business Management Daily, job details should be updated as often as needed, reviewed periodically to reflect current responsibilities, and amended as duties change. Be sure to ensure any amendments are reviewed with your current employees.

“As often as needed” are four important words to remember. This is because each job description must be a current overview of the employee’s responsibilities. However, revisions may be needed at various times, including when:

  • New assignments are made.
  • Procedures or policies are modified.
  • Technology is introduced or updated.
  • Additional skills or competency training takes place.
  • Managers, work groups, models of care, or staffing assignments change.

These frequent and small changes can help ensure job information is not only current, but also personalized. You never want your nurses to say that they didn’t know about certain responsibilities. The importance of revising job descriptions cannot be overstated because it includes everything the employees needs to know to complete their jobs. But keep in mind, those duties can change at any time.

Checklist for updating job descriptions

Some additional points to consider in preparing your next update include:

  • Assessing content for how it should and should not be written as well as what should be included or left out and making any needed changes
  • Verifying that all current qualifications needed for the role are listed
  • Confirming essential roles, responsibilities, and some day-to-day activities are included, but not every small task
  • Looking for information on shifts, reporting mechanisms, varying schedules, flexible shifts, etc.
  • Making sure there is enough information but not a lot of unnecessary detail
  • Checking the education and qualifications for the role to see if they’re current.
  • Ensuring there’s an explanation of autonomous parts of the role and functions carried out in groups or with help
  • Setting up reminders for position reviews and revisions

Each of these tips can help you avoid potential legal issues with employees who might say, “I didn’t know that was in my job description.” Make sure each employee’s position is reviewed at hire and during each performance review throughout the course of their employment. You don’t want employees leaving your organization because they’re being asked to do things not included in their job responsibilities.

When updating or adding new elements to job details, it can also be helpful to incorporate how each role supports those objectives related to your organization’s mission statement, according to Forbes. For example, if a focus of your organization’s mission is to promote patient-centered care, then adding how a nurse manager helps to accomplish that goal would show the value of that role and how it impacts the organization. In addition, updating job descriptions can also help with completing performance reviews and investigating employee complaints.

Updating role details shows potential and current employees you’re not only invested in your organization but also in your staff and the jobs they complete. Taking time to update and maintain job descriptions can ensure your efforts in retention and recruitment are successful.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in December 2021 and has been updated with new content.