CalmWave Blog

Boomerang Nurses: Is This a Real Phenomenon?

By: Peggy Pilon, BSN, MS, RN,  VP of Clinical Success


What is a Boomerang Nurse?


A “boomerang nurse” is a returning nurse who left his/her regularly-scheduled staff position at a local hospital, often to take a more lucrative travel job. This phenomenon occurred during the pandemic and further increased the staffing shortages at most hospitals. However, it seems that a large percentage of the “boomerang nurses” are returning to their previous hospitals. At HCA Healthcare, around 20% of their 37,000 new hires were nurses that previously worked for HCA between 2016 through 2022. Gail Vozzella, Houston Methodist’s CNO, stated… ”The boomerang nurses have returned”, as they have rehired 60 nurses who had left during the pandemic. It is important to note that the majority of the boomerang nurses do not return to their previous units, and instead take different positions within the hospital.


Travel Nursing Phenomena


According to Alan Braynin, CEO of Aya Healthcare, travel nursing pay has decreased approximately 28% since 2022. In addition, hospital openings for travel nurses have decreased by 51% by April 2023, when compared to one year ago. Another part of the puzzle is that some hospitals, like Sentara, increased their nurses’ wages by 21% and now offer student debt relief up to $10K. This, in turn, helped Santara hire approximately 400 boomerang nurses, resulting in a decrease in nurse overtime and a 50% reduction in travel nurse wages.


The Value of “Boomerangs”


In the past, hospital systems were reluctant to rehire nurses that had resigned. Some even had policies of marking nurses who resigned as “Do Not Rehire”. A recent survey cited that 76% of Human Resource professionals stated that they are more open to hiring former nurse-employees than they were pre-Covid. This is because the boomerang nurses are less costly to reorient and already know the organizational culture. Research from MIT shows that boomerang nurses are more satisfied and more committed than external hires. These nurses also end-up performing at higher levels and are more likely to be promoted


More Than Money


It is important to note that salary increases and student debt relief are not the only approaches used to recruit nurses back to their local hospitals. A big draw is offering nurses more flexible schedules, Career Advancement programs (clinical ladders), Nurse Residency programs, child care, and improved work environments.


Burnout as a Contributor


I am very happy to see nurses getting salary increases along with other benefits. But we need to remember that many nurses ultimately left their local hospital staff position due to burnout. So, salary increases and additional benefits are really just the beginning of addressing the issue of burnout. McKinsey & Company’s latest research shows that 40% of inpatient registered nurses intend to leave their current direct patient care position. This is an increase from 35% in Fall of 2022. The research also cited that of the RNs’ who stated they intend to leave direct patient care, 65% shared that they intend to seek non-direct patient care roles, different career paths, further their education, or completely exit the workforce. These nurses stated that not being valued, inadequate pay, and unmanageable work environments are the top factors that impact their decision to leave the bedside. The surveys also discovered that frontline nurses have consistently ranked meaningful RN work and flexible schedules as the most important factors that would influence them to stay in their current bedside positions.


A better solution?


It is exciting to see nurses returning to their local hospitals to care for their communities. However, improved salaries and other financial incentives are only part of the solution to increase nurse job satisfaction and prevent another mass exodus. It is time we significantly improve the nurses’ work environment by better leveraging available technologies.   There are great AI solutions targeted specifically on improving nurses’ working environments, such as CalmWave™.


Introducing CalmWave


At CalmWave, we are a data-driven, patient-focused, and clinician-centric operations-based artificial intelligence (AI) platform. The CalmWave platform captures, analyzes, and synthesizes real-time data from dozens of data sources (monitors, labs, orders, findings, etc.) to empower hospitals with the intelligence critical to improving patient outcomes, optimizing operations, and retaining staff. Our AI technology presents objective solutions that reduce non-actionable alarms by providing proper alarm management insight to the caregiver, thereby decreasing alarm fatigue, excessive cognitive load, and burnout. At CalmWave, we are interested in supporting clinician workflow so they spend less time responding to non-actionable alarms and more time caring for patients. It is simple… nurses only receive actionable alarms, thereby decreasing their non-value added work and increasing their job satisfaction. Isn’t it time that registered nurses spend their nursing care hours caring for patients instead of caring for the machines?

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