Improve Retention in Allied Health and Nursing Programs

Improve Retention in Allied Health and Nursing Programs

Improve Retention in Allied Health and Nursing Programs

Nursing and allied health shortages have touched every corner of our country, with many providers unable to find the staff needed to serve their communities. At the same time, nurses and providers are working hard to accommodate staffing shortages, but many feel burnt out to the point of leaving the profession. 

There’s no easy fix to solving our healthcare shortage; long-term solutions will take collaboration from many organizations. Nursing and allied health programs can do their part by shoring up retention strategies to help more students successfully enter the field. 

While improving retention is easier said than done, here are seven strategies to help you start moving the needle: 

  1. Improve data collection
  2. Look at the entire journey
  3. Intervene early and often
  4. Customization is king
  5. Help students feel seen and heard
  6. Improve clinical/externship oversight
  7. Empower students


Read on to learn more about each strategy, and how to implement them at your allied health or nursing program. 

Improve data collection

The number one rule of retention: You can’t help students if you don’t know they’re at risk. 

According to Ena Hull, former COO of Legacy Education: “Attendance is everything.” 

The first step to improve retention is to strengthen attendance processes. Consider: 

  • How long does it take to receive attendance data? 
  • When you get that data, does it include every learning environment (online, on-ground, externship), or are there additional delays? 
  • Are students typically at greater risk by the time you get the correct data? 
  • Once you have all the data, how long does it take to intervene with a student? Are there additional delays? 


Having timely and accurate attendance processes is the baseline for retention success. One of the easiest ways to shore up attendance processes is through automation. New tools, like CourseKey, simplify the process by automatically transferring attendance from every learning environment to administrators and the SIS.

Look at the entire journey

While having great attendance processes is the basis for good retention processes, examining other metrics is also essential. 

Even if a student shows up on time every day, they may struggle academically and fall behind with their coursework. 

While instructors are responsible for intervening with students academically, they may not be able to spot a more significant trend if a student is also performing poorly with other instructors. 

Having the complete picture of student performance with every instructor in every learning environment will help advisors connect with students early and encourage them to get extra support.

Intervene early and often

The earlier you intervene with an at-risk student, the higher the likelihood they can catch up and stay on track to graduate. 

Early intervention demonstrates to your students that you know what’s happening with them and that you care about their success. 

But it isn’t just all about at-risk students. In a joint study between CourseKey and the University of Texas, we found that early, positive intervention improves grades by one entire letter. 

But staff members get busy and rarely have time to celebrate all the little victories. Instead of relying on staff members, consider intervention automation

Automated intervention scans your data and intervenes with students when they hit a predetermined data point, for example, a 100% on a quiz or a 3-day absence. 

Automation allows your staff to do more with less and fight the biggest fire. For example, you can automate celebratory texts to students who are doing well and let your team focus on coaching the students who need extra support. 

One key consideration with automation is that it shouldn’t be generic. It should reflect real milestones in the student journey and factors that are relevant to the students. 

With that in mind…

Customization is king

Automation is an excellent tool to supercharge your intervention strategy.

But automation without customization can make students feel like just another face in the crowd. 

You can customize your automation based on many different factors, including: 

  • Time attended & time left in program
  • Whether a student is attending day or night classes
  • Distance from campus 


These are just a few ways to customize your intervention. For example, suppose you find out that a night-class student who lives far away from your physical building hasn’t been attending class. You can send them a message checking on their transportation needs to see if they need support.

Help students feel seen and heard

Customization is one way to help students feel seen. To have a tangible impact on retention rates, they must also feel heard.  

The easiest way to help students feel heard is through regular satisfaction surveys. Checking in with them every quarter, module, or even every week with a simple “How are you feeling about your program this week,” can go a long way. 

But it can’t just end at the survey. Students need to feel like their input means something and see tangible change from their feedback. While some student concerns may be longer-term fixes, you can find a few easy wins when surveying students regularly. 

For example, when Ena Hull surveyed students at Legacy Education, she found that students frequently complained about the quality of the breakroom. Broken microwaves meant students had to skip lunch or face long lines for the working microwave. Upgrading the microwaves was a quick and easy way to improve student experience and help students stay focused during class.

Improve clinical/externship oversight

There’s nothing worse than when a student makes it all the way to externship or clinical and then drops out. 

Externship and clinical data have always been challenging to track and even more challenging to verify. Your students have a schedule of when they’re SUPPOSED to be there, but how do you know if they’re proactively getting enough hours? 

Boosting externship/clinical oversight can help your team keep students on track, even when they aren’t physically in the building. By gaining better visibility into attendance, you can be confident that students are on track to get all their hours in or intervene if they need to catch up. 

But how do you improve oversight and boost visibility? By leaning on the one thing your students have on them all the time: Their mobile devices. 

New technology allows students to check into their site on their mobile device and then automatically transfer that data to externship and clinical coordinators. Creating a geofence around the site location helps you be sure that the student is actually at the site, not just checking in from home. 

Empower your students

Do your students know where they stand in their educational journey? Can they visualize their progress to see how far they’ve come and how close they are to achieving their goals? 

By giving your students access to their progress in a mobile student app, you’re empowering them with the information they need to make decisions that put them on track to graduation

One school that uses CourseKey to help students track their progress shared that students regularly compare progress with one another. When one student realized they were falling behind their peers, they put in the extra time to catch up. According to one medical assisting student: “With CourseKey, I can see how far I’ve come and how close I am to achieving my goals.”

The key takeaway: Double-down on experience

All of these tactical improvements ladder up to one thing: Creating a world-class student experience. Students who enjoy their time at your organization are likelier to persist and achieve their goals. 

Improve student retention in allied health and nursing programs with CourseKey

CourseKey helps allied health and nursing programs across the country improve data management, automate intervention, and empower students to get more students from day one to graduation day. 

On average, CourseKey customers see a 3.5% lift in retention rates, while allied health and nursing see an 8.3% lift in retention rates. Request a demo to learn more about how CourseKey can help you reach your retention goals. 

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