Since the 1970s, clinical ladder programs (CLPs) have been used by healthcare organizations large and small to encourage professional development and increase job satisfaction among staff nurses. Many facilities offer CLPs to facilitate the process of advancement from novice to expert nurse. While some organizations encourage voluntary enrollment in CLPs, others make nurse participation mandatory.
Your organization may already have an existing CLP, or you may be in the process of developing this type of program for the first time. Regardless of where you are in the process, creating an effective clinical ladder program that attracts staff nurse participation and support can be difficult. Developing an effective program starts with four simple steps that are easily adaptable to meet your facility’s needs and goals.
Secure support and participation from nursing leadership. Almost nothing sinks a CLP faster than a lack of support from nursing leadership. From nurse managers on the unit to nurse administrators in top hospital roles, a CLP cannot function without thorough collaboration between individual managers, hospital administration, and Human Resources. This is essential because:
To maximize program enrollment, start gathering input from staff nurses during the orientation phase of their training. Many facilities offer information about CLPs as a standard part of the orientation process. You may also consider holding formal educational sessions to discuss the CLP with novice nurses and spark their interest in completing the process.
Most CLPs link achievement with financial compensation. Research shows this is a key driver of program participation, but many nurses report that they will not participate in CLPs if monetary rewards aren’t sufficient. It can be hard to strike a balance between appropriate financial rewards and meeting the budgetary needs of your facility, but an open dialogue between staff nurses and nursing administration helps find solutions that work for everyone.
Additionally, CLPs that fail to change over time are often viewed as a barrier to professional growth and development. If your nurses aren’t convinced of the program’s benefit as a continuous opportunity to learn, participation in your CLP will naturally decline over time.
What experiences have you had with CLPs at your organization? Leave us a comment, we'd love to hear from you!