When we think of the business term “ROI” — return on investment — nursing and what nurses do on a day-to-day basis may not readily spring to mind. However, when you’re a nurse who wants to understand how to tell the story of your value to an employer and communicate what you see as your true worth as a healthcare professional, thinking in terms of your ROI can be a strong strategy for self-promotion.

nurses-and-their-roiWhat’s Your Worth?  

Let’s say you’re a nurse with a few years of experience in a large academic medical center, and you’ve been making your way through the ranks by working hard and paying your dues. Now that you’ve cared for med-surg, telemetry, and step-down patients, you’d like to move to CVICU or ICU. When casually talking with the ICU supervisor or sitting down for a formal job interview, your mission is to tell a compelling story about your skills, knowledge, accomplishments, and contributions to the team and the facility.

While the “return on investment” you offer isn’t necessarily a specific dollar amount, remember that happy, satisfied patients will likely to give the hospital high marks on HCAHPS scores, which can result in higher reimbursement rates. Also, remember that a hospital spends tens of thousands of dollars to onboard and orient a new nurse; so, if you can demonstrate that this new position will mean you’ll be sticking around for several years more, this is also money in their pocket since they won’t need to replace you any time soon.

In another situation, perhaps you’re a nurse manager, and you’ve decided to apply for a position as director of nursing. In terms of your ROI, let’s say that during your tenure as nurse manager, you’ve retained 90 percent of your nursing staff, while other units have seen retention as low as 75 percent. As mentioned above, onboarding a new nurse employee is expensive, so if your management style results in more nurses staying with the organization for extended periods, this is once again money in the facility’s pocket.

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Other examples of positive ROI with direct financial implications might include:

  • A 60 percent reduction in nosocomial infections during your three years as an infection control nurse.
  • A 20 percent decrease in waste produced in an OR under your management.
  • The addition of a new service line in the outpatient surgical suite.

ROI Comes in Many Guises

If you can’t explain your return on investment in such numerical and specific terms, there’s no reason to fret. As noted above, your ROI can come in many forms, including the simple fact of being a stellar and efficient nurse with highly satisfied patients, and simply being a solid long-term employee is a positive return on investment in and of itself.

Belonging to workplace committees, participating in research, or representing your employer at a conference with a presentation or poster are all ways to point to your participation and interest in the organization’s life. Being an intrapreneur — an employee dedicated to contributing in optimistic, innovative, and forward-looking ways — is a very positive attribute to underscore as you build an image of who you are and what you bring to the table.

Suppose you work for an employer deeply invested in the community (e.g., a federally qualified health center, clinic, addiction treatment center, human service agency, etc.). In that case, the relationships you can foster with multidisciplinary community partners are a return on investment since those alliances can lead to all sorts of opportunities for your employer, including but not limited to partnering on grant-based funding.

The return on investment for having you as a dedicated employee goes far beyond money. However, most organizations generally focus on their bottom line, especially in uncertain economic times.

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Whether you’re applying for a position with a new employer or jockeying for a promotion, there are many ways to paint a picture demonstrating that investing in you will reap significant benefits for your employer. Use language that “sells” your best qualities, skills, expert knowledge, and most important accomplishments. All of this adds to a complete picture of how you are a sound investment for a company or facility seeking an enthusiastic employee ready to make their mark, contribute in myriad ways, and make a difference.

Minority Nurse is thrilled to feature Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.

Keith Carlson
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