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Building (and keeping) Asante’s team of the future

A year ago, we couldn’t envision the challenges 2020 would bring to Asante’s workforce. As we aim to recover, Nursing Professional Development’s Anne Hansen outlines staffing efforts for 2021.


Last year, I wrote “2020 is here. The start of a new decade is a good time to reflect on all that has been built and all that we’re building. This year will bring new technologies, new services, new regulations, new buildings, new ways of business, and new knowledge.”

Who knew 2020 would also bring a global pandemic, political and social division, and wildfires — all of which affect recruitment, hiring and retention.

What holds true is that the people of this organization are what matters. It’s your teamwork and resilience that has helped navigate our organization and community through these challenging times. As we look forward, diligent focus is critical to build the Asante Team of the future during these rapidly changing times.

2020 impact on the nursing workforce

As COVID-19, political and operational challenges such as capacity continue to test our organization, the challenges that face the nursing workforce are also shifting. An issue brief by the Oregon Center for Nursing identified the education pipeline and nursing burnout and stress as primary challenges that need to be addressed by academic and health care organizations.

We know that these elements affect every member of our clinical workforce. Workforce needs are a critical link to our long-term organizational strategy. Amid dramatic changes in our care delivery system, and the projected growth of our hospitals’ size and services, we have an opportunity to create structure and give resources to develop our workforce of the future.

Asante turnover and nursing workforce considerations

The first quarter of this year’s Balanced Scorecard showed an overall Asante turnover rate of 15.2%. Our goal was 12. 5% or less. While our capacity to hire new graduate nurses is not under question for the first time, our academic partners across the state are working through decreased clinical placement opportunities, potentially impacting our future nursing pipeline.

Asante has fewer long-term, experienced nurses than in years past, which over time, leads to a less experienced workforce. Over the next two to five years, there is a projected need for about 150 full-time RNs and other support roles as our campuses expand to better serve the community. Our focus will be to reduce turnover and recruit high-quality new candidates to meet our workforce needs.

Building the team of the future

Onboarding of new staff with the intention of retaining them is the responsibility of formal and informal leaders (e.g. clinical leads, charge nurses, preceptors), unit staff, and Organizational Development and Nursing Professional Development partners. All of us have an important role to play; each team member enculturates the new hire to the Asante environment, values and behavioral expectations.

How can leaders prepare to support a changing workforce?

To best prepare for the workforce needs of the near future, leaders can:

  • Strategically consider staffing requirements: assess short term, midterm and projected long-term hiring needs at the beginning of every year and reassess needs quarterly.
  • Proactively plan to hire new staff to meet the projected demand: consider skill mix such as new graduates vs. experienced staff and capacity trends within the unit. For new-graduate RNs in the residency program, plan to hire on the identified residency dates, indicated by the red X on the 2021 new employee and clinical orientation schedule.
    • Additional considerations: Your unit’s turnover rate, shadow vacancies, vacancy rate, time to fill, and new services may require different or new staff. There is also staffing for the new pavilion at ARRMC, workload intensity, NHPPD and preceptor availability and experience to consider. Talk with your manager or director about unit-specific considerations.
    • New hires and new graduates for each unit should be determined by the number of available qualified preceptors, their willingness to precept a new graduate, and the availability of formal leaders and staff development specialists (where applicable) to round and ensure the needs of the new hire are being met. This includes identifying knowledge, skill and behavioral learning opportunities.
    • Use the fewest number of preceptors and aim for consistency. When possible, ensure minimal transitions between day and night shifts to facilitate growth and improve the transition into practice experience.

What else is being done for workforce planning?

A governance council of Asante nursing executives, operational leaders and Human Resources has been developing a workforce plan to attract and retain nurses with a range of experience and skills. The plan is a living framework designed to assess our current practices by analyzing data, identifying gaps and developing interventions that will shape our future workforce.

The team looks at how to reduce turnover, shorten the time it takes to fill open positions, create a sense of community within the organization, decrease the resignation of skilled staff and minimize the use of contract labor.

Although the workforce plan has historically focused on strategies for bedside nurses, it a blueprint for a range of patient-care disciplines. The goal is for Asante to build an engaged workforce of the right size with the right skills to ensure accessible, high-quality health care services for every patient every time.

Asante is an exceptional place to work, and we are committed to recruiting and retaining exceptional people who contribute to a healthy and happy work environment.

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