Several years ago, a book about healthcare leadership hit the New York Times Bestseller List. The title of the book grabbed attention and made people stop and think. The name of the book: Patients Come Second. Almost anyone who works in healthcare will agree that patient care is at the heart of healthcare. Patients are at the center of everything that happens in a health system. So, if patients come second, what comes first?

Your staff. You can’t take care of patients if you don’t take care of your staff. That perspective is especially relevant now, as the nursing shortage is approaching a breaking point. Healthcare delivery depends on the caregivers, and we need to focus on initiatives that give nurses a better work/life balance and a better work environment.

The idea of improving the delivery of patient care by increasing employee engagement is a driving force for me. As a workforce solution strategist at Hospital IQ, my passion is working hand-in-hand with clients who are facing these immense challenges to develop technology that uses artificial intelligence to address their needs. In fact, it’s these collaborative innovations that provide me with optimism about the future of healthcare — in spite of growing concerns about nursing shortages.

Not Enough Nurses at the Bedside

Even before the pandemic, we were facing a staffing crisis. Increasing patient care needs, combined with an exodus of bedside nurses, was causing demand for nurses to outpace supply. Research from 2019 shows a predicted shortage of over 900,000 RNs by 2030.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has pushed things from bad to worse. A nationwide survey earlier this year found that 36% of nurses are considering leaving or have already left the bedside.

This is an issue that perpetuates itself. As more nurses leave, the remaining nurses are put under an even greater strain. That leads to increased burnout and turnover, and the cycle continues to repeat itself.

Staffing and Scheduling Issues Impact Staff and Patients

When nurses become frustrated with their schedule and overwhelmed by their workload, the patient experience can suffer. A study from AMN Healthcare found that nearly 70% of nurses managers are very concerned about the effect staffing and scheduling issues have on patient satisfaction, and more than 50% are very concerned about the impact on quality of care.

Their concern is backed by research. When fewer nurses are caring for more patients, mistakes can happen – sometimes with disastrous consequences. A 2018 study in the The BMJ Quality and Safety Journal found the risk of death increases by 3% for every day a patient is treated in a hospital that is understaffed.

The understaffing takes a heavy toll on nurses as well. With so many work demands, nurses have sacrificed lunch breaks, time with their family and even their own health and well-being. A recent study shows that 75% of nurses have experienced extreme stress or anxiety in the last year.

These understaffing conditions are not sustainable for staff or patients.

Technology as the Foundation for Transformation

If we want to improve patient care delivery, we will need to put staff at the center of some key workforce initiatives. We’re focused on solutions that enable our clients to optimize their valuable nursing resources. Here are some of the ways we’re doing that:

  • Predicting staffing needs in advance – When unit managers and staffing coordinators have a clear, accurate picture of staffing needs days in advance, they are able to adjust schedules and unit assignments, reducing last-minute adjustments and improving staff satisfaction and patient care.
  • Enabling enterprise-wide staffing transparency – With the visibility into staffing gaps across an enterprise and the ability for real-time communication between the staffing office, unit leaders, and nursing staff, there is increased collaboration, accountability, and decision-making to ensure the right nurse is with the right patient at the right time.
  • Providing insights for strategic and streamlined staff allocation– With tools to streamline the coordination, communication, and deployment of staff, the daily nurse allocation process is greatly improved. This enables unit nursing leaders to spend less time focused on staffing and more time on patient care activities.

While nursing shortages and turnover are growing challenges, technology can help address these issues. At Hospital IQ, we’re proud to work closely with our clients so that we can deliver solutions that help them tackle their biggest problems.

For more strategies that help address understaffing challenges, check out the white paper, “7 Strategies for Mitigating Understaffing with Predictive Analytics.


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