Employee turnover is a critical issue for hospitals and healthcare facilities. Long hours, stressful shifts and exhaustion can quickly lead to burnout. The startling realities of healthcare employee retention include an average hospital turnover rate of 17.2 percent nationally.

Creating a positive work environment where staff feel appreciated and cared for can help keep employeeshappy, productive and, hopefully, at their job longer. Employee engagement, a sense of accomplishment and meaning, and honest communication are the building blocks. Here are five good starting points:

1. Be understanding and compassionate. Your personal attitude really does affect the attitude of your employees. A study in an April 2012 issue of The Leadership Quarterly found that when people remembered supportive experiences with their employer, regions of the brain associated with positive emotions were activated. Conversely, recalling experiences with antagonistic employers triggered areas of the brain associated with avoidance, decreased compassion, narrowed attention and negative emotions. Listen to the concerns and needs of your staff, and seek out ways to be encouraging.

2. Include physicians in decision-makingWithout physicians, hospitals couldn’t exist. Yet few physicians are included in the operational, strategic and financial decisions regarding how to evaluate and optimize care. Ask physicians at your facility for their help in framing projects, discussing goals and comparing data.

3. Say “thank you.” It may seem simple, but telling your employees “thank you” is a guaranteed way to make them feel appreciated and valued. A study by Glassdoor, an online career site, found that 81 percent of employees say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.

4. Implement regular training programs. A good employee manual is essential for the success of any organization. But hospitals and healthcare facilities should go a step further and re-train employees on basic procedures on a regular basis. Make training programs a requirement to pass yearly evaluations in order to ensure doctors, nurses and staff are up to speed. Resources can be found from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

5. Respect your nursing staff. Nurses spend more time with patients and family members than any other care provider in the hospital. Yet they often don’t feel respected for their care contribution, believe they’re overworked and have poor communication with management about critical issues—helping to explain the average 16.4 percent national turnover rate for RNs. Make staffing a priority so patient safety remains paramount and burnout is lessened, and require physicians to maintain a culture of respect of nurses and other clinicians.

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