Nurse turnover is damaging because it is associated with poor quality of care, high costs of recruitment, induction and training, high levels of sickness and absence, understaffed services and increased use of expensive agency staff.
Nurses who leave are motivated by a sense of isolation, low levels of morale, extreme pressures at work, weak team cohesion and lack of competence development (Smythe et al. 2016).This is a global issue but in the UK 10% of nurses are intending to leave; of these the majority are early career or approaching retirement (National Nursing Research Unit 2012). Three years post-qualification, nearly one fifth of nurses have left the profession (Merrifield 2015).
Our previous study, funded by the Burdett Trust, identified that nurses feel isolated, unsupported and lacking in professional identity. We found that nurses valued ‘hearing each others’ stories’, with opportunities for networking and problem-solving (Smythe et al 2016).
The National Nursing Research Unit (2012) found that support groups lasting a year or more produced improved retention rates by one third in USA, while Peterson et al (2008) confirmed that peer support groups can reduce stress and burnout. Competence can be enhanced through online learning (Gerkin et al 2009) and be further embedded through web-based discussion with peers (Mettiainen and Vahamaa 2013). Therefore online learning in combination with web-based peer support has the potential to improve competence and address many of causes of poor retention.