5 ways asking the right questions help you retain care team staff

Even before COVID-19, nursing burnout and care staff turnover have been on the rise. The recent pandemic has elevated the trend from a “problem” to a crisis. In 2018, 31% of all nurses who left their jobs reported “burnout” as the main reason for leaving their position. In 2019, before the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, 54% of nurses reported mild to severe burnout.


In the post-pandemic era, the ongoing strains on care staff and their psyche during this prolonged period of stress have undoubtedly increased their desire to explore other options, or quit the profession all together. To retain your high-performing care staff and hire more qualified nurses to alleviate the workload in this upside-down labor market, you must ask all the right questions to keep your turnover to a minimum to maintain a profitable bottom line.

At Cortex, we’ve helped hundreds of post-acute providers conduct employee surveys to help them improve nursing staff retention. Through the multitude of surveys we’ve completed, we’ve found that just asking the right questions can positively impact your care team. Here are the five ways that we’ve discovered that will help you keep your care staff by asking the right questions:

1. Help you uncover sources of dissatisfaction and stress

In conjunction with surveys with a wide range of topics, questions that encourage feedback can generate comments and responses that lead to meaningful, constructive feedback that can help you identify reasons for stress and burnout. And it often can be reasons and topics you don’t expect. Questions like “are you given all the resources you need to do your job” or “Have you received the proper training to care for your patient” can lead to excellent feedback that dives straight to the source of their daily stress. Even simple surveys with a score based from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” can yield meaningful data if you ask a wide range of questions that touch on topics that drives employee engagement.

One consistent trend we’ve found is that the more employee survey data you collect, the better picture you will have of the sources of dissatisfaction and stress that leads to burnout.

2. Give you opportunities to mitigate burnout

On an individual basis, administering employee satisfaction surveys can help you identify staff members that may be struggling with burnout. And signs of burnout can come in several forms, not just issues related to workload. Suppose an employee negatively answers a question about teamwork or does not feel other staff members are friendly and welcome. In this case, it can be one of the first signs of nursing burnout, which is feeling isolated. Even if the survey is administered anonymously, you can still gather enough information to change the organization’s operations to mitigate burnout. 

 Asking the right questions allows you to get ahead of the snowball effect of burnout and prevent it before it’s too late.

3. Improve HR and systemic operations through feedback

If your Human Resources team isn’t asking questions and surveying your employees regularly to find the pulse of your nurse’s engagement, it will be too late by the time you enact changes to your operations to counter an increase in employee churn rate. Studies have shown that each nurse turnover can cost upwards of $40,000, and that effective long-term changes to improve company work culture and reputation can take 6-12 months to take effect. 

By asking questions regularly and engaging your employees for feedback to improve HR processes, you can close that feedback loop and significantly decrease the cost of turnover.

4. Demonstrate a commitment to improving work/life balance

Not only does gathering the critical data through questions and surveys help in your efforts to stem the tide of burnout, it also effectively demonstrates to your employees your dedication and commitment to their well-being. The first line of defense in preventing nurse burnout is communications, by asking them the right questions regularly, you are communicating to nurses and staff members at risk of burnout that you care. Specifically, if you turn the survey data into actionable items that effectively improve their work/life balance, it will go a long way to increase their appreciation for the job.

When you ask pertinent questions then address the issues that plague your employees, you show your staff your understanding of their struggles

5. Keep care staff engaged

Employee survey questions should not only ask questions related to their satisfaction. A well design survey should cover all aspects of employee engagement. Categories such as communication, teamwork, autonomy & empowerment, expectations, and pride are all metrics that will allow you to measure the level of engagement amongst your care staff. A nurse team member who answers your survey questions and is willing to give constructive feedback is a member of your team who is engaged and feels a certain level of investment into their job. 

By phrasing your questions clearly and correctly, and encouraging openness in their feedback, you keep your care team engaged.

CMS data correlates staff turnover rates to quality of care. Post-acute providers with low turnover rates on average have better patient care and satisfaction results. So if you’re not engaging your employees and regularly surveying them for feedback, you should do so soon.

If you need help with employee retention and satisfaction, we can help.

Want to know how Cortex can help?