ICU Nurse Turnover Rates: On the Rise Pre COVID-19

Over the course of the past few weeks, our health system clients have been working with us to navigate the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. In particular, we’ve seen ICUs in hospitals across the country taking the lion’s share of the COVID cases. 

One of the core use cases of the Laudio platform is reducing turnover and increasing employee engagement. I’ve seen, firsthand, the stress that they are going through – as well as the interventions they’re taking in response to where data and trends are leading them. ICU RNs are working tirelessly and we’re seeing early warning signs of endemic burnout among them, especially in hard-hit areas 

Chart depicts work days and its impact on nurse burnout

What worries me the most about ICU RNs is that the turnover rate in this group has been increasing steadily for the past 18 months — a long-term trend that started well before COVID.  

ICU RN turnover has decreased during COVID, which is good news for health systems. This is possibly a result of care teams committing themselves to serve their patients and supporting their colleagues during a time of crisis. But any hospital looking at this trend should worry about what happens later in 2020, as the acute COVID crisis passes, long-term historical trends begin to re-appear, and this group of RNs looks to recover from a period of burnout.

In the chart below, you see the average turnover rate for ICU RNs compiled from multiple hospitals around the US.  The turnover rate for ICU RNs has been increasing for the past 18 months.  (The turnover rate has trended towards a decline in the past couple of months, perhaps due to the COVID pandemic or seasonal variation.)

This graphic depicts National nurse turnover rates

Hospitals in similar situations may well ask themselves: Were we also seeing a multi-year increase in turnover leading up to the past few months? What was causing the historical rise in our organization? What reasons do we have to believe that those trends won’t reappear later this year? What can we do to maximize our commitment to these caregivers who stepped up and shouldered a large part of the COVID crisis? How can we provide our ICU managers with the tools they need to lead these incredible teams … teams in which each member is irreplaceable?