Enhance Nurse Retention With Strong Workplace Culture

It’s no secret that nurse retention is influenced by factors like work environment and work-life balance. So having a strong and committed workplace culture is a great way to increase job satisfaction and reduce turnover.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, toxic workplace culture is cited as a reason many employees leave their organizations. And this is no different for the nursing profession.

Nurses, especially those at the bedside, face a continuously evolving profession while navigating challenges in their own work settings. Challenges including high nurse-to-patient ratios and short staffing make the workplace more stressful, and when you add a difficult workplace culture, this can make the situation even more taxing.

A recent survey conducted by the American Nurses Foundation found that nurses needed more support from both their direct managers and the organizations that employ them. In fact, when asked what is most important for their work satisfaction, 33% of nurses reported desiring a safer environment, and 26% reported wanting to feel more valued by their organization. Incorporating a safe, committed, and caring workplace culture can not only retain more nurses but make the workplace a more satisfying and comfortable place to be.

Safety first

Patient safety is always top of mind for any healthcare organization. And while patient safety should always be the main priority, the safety of nurses should be prioritized as well. Many studies have shown that the safety climate of the workplace is a component that influences a nurse’s job satisfaction as well as their commitment to stay with an organization. Recognizing and prioritizing safety of nursing staff is one way to increase retention and build a stronger workplace culture.

The role of a nurse comes with both rewards and challenges. But some of these challenges impact nurses’ mental and physical safety, and nurses need and deserve to feel safe at work.

A study on nurse work environments found that when safety was prioritized, there was higher retention and job satisfaction. In this study, nurse respondents rated that having trusted and supportive communication around safety was a strategy to improve the work environment, thereby removing the culture of blame and incivility with these situations. In fact, the study highlighted that nurses working in healthy environments had a lower risk of being injured.

Recognition and authentic leadership

Meaningful recognition and authentic nurse leadership are two components that play heavily into workplace culture. And to have the healthiest work environment, it’s essential for nurses to have both elements.

An article from the American Association of Post-Acute Nursing highlighted the need for an “employee-first” culture to combat nurse turnover. This type of setting involves nurse leadership taking time to personalize appreciation for their nurses. Examples include writing more thoughtful and personal messages in cards or letters, sending emails that recognize specific examples of your nurses’ hard work, or taking on a task for a staff member unexpectedly. Recognizing and showing gratitude to your nurses can go a long way with job satisfaction and engagement, and it can be as simple as a, “Thank you for your hard work.”

Genuine and supportive nurse leaders are essential in creating a positive workplace culture. A study on leadership styles revealed that compassionate nurse leaders not only improved nurse job satisfaction but also positively influenced retention. Nurse leaders who involved staff in decision-making were transparent and empathetic toward staff concerns, needs, and wants had improved outcomes in the work environment, according to the study. Through their actions and behaviors, nurse leaders can transform the work environment into a place where nurses feel supported, safe, and heard.


Like leadership and recognition, teamwork plays a large role in workplace culture. Strong teams improve patient outcomes, increase job satisfaction, and reduce turnover.

Day to day, nurses work alongside other nursing professionals as well as specialists from a variety of disciplines and departments. And within these relationships, there is continuous communication, collaboration, and education. These connections are not just interactions that occur during the workday, they’re relationships that extend to patients, other colleagues, and the work environment.

In fact, one study showed that interprofessional teamwork directly correlated with nurses’ intention to leave their job. And the study suggested that if organizations fostered more interprofessional teamwork among staff, not only would retention improve but so would workplace culture.

Nurses need to feel supported by leadership and their teammates. So finding ways to cultivate teamwork is vital in creating a stronger workplace. Using team-building strategies such as team recognition or training activities can be a way to improve teamwork, according to one study. Effective teamwork highlights and uses the skill set of each team member to ensure the needs of each patient are met, while helping to build a happier and healthier work environment.

Work environments for nurses are stressful enough with the continuous challenges of short staffing and burnout. However, by ensuring your workplace culture is inviting, safe, and understanding, you’ll create a better environment that is felt by your staff, your organization, and your patients.