The long-discussed nursing shortage has been accelerated. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new RNs for expansion and replacement of retirees by 2022. Compound that with more nurses than ever before leaving the profession for other industries, a shortage of nursing educators to teach and inspire the next generation of nurses, along with limited or no time to onboard newly graduated nurses eager to begin their careers, and some studies estimate a nursing shortage of close to one million nurses by 2029. 

With over 30 years in the profession, I have experienced both the good and the unfortunate aspects of nursing, but only now do I have a fear of what’s to come. Regrettably, our current situation amidst a global pandemic is changing the future of nursing more so than it was even pre-pandemic. The potential these estimated shortages may increase post-COVID is a real possibility. 

While I recognize there are numerous interventions needed to solve the national nursing shortage, many will be years in the making before we see the impact. However, there are also immediate remedies available to improve the work environment for those staying in the workforce, and encourage those considering leaving to reconsider. 

 

STAFF BURNOUT IS A REAL THREAT

Heavy workloads, long hours, and the stress of treating more critically ill patients is causing physical and emotional exhaustion. Staff burnout is a real threat. I recently conducted a brief survey of some of my nursing colleagues to get their raw, honest perspective of what it’s like today and why they’re thinking about leaving the bedside. The responses are a heartbreaking reality of the adverse effects on nurses’ professional life: 

  • “I love caring for my patients but don’t like anything else about nursing.”
  • “I hate that we are just numbers and management seems to not care about us at all.”
  • “I don’t like that we are constantly told about all the things that we do wrong and not enough about what we are doing right; it’s so discouraging.”
  • “Can’t do the job and feel good about what I did at the end of the day.”

 

NURSE STAFFING CHALLENGES: FIREFIGHTING MODE IS THE NEW NORMAL 

My nursing background led me to a career with Hospital IQ, where I’m fortunate to be part of a team that delivers real solutions that alleviate some of the day-to-day staffing challenges nurse leaders face. When relying on outdated and inaccurate methods to predict patient demand, health systems struggle to balance utilization of nursing staff while safeguarding patient care. There isn’t enough time, nor the right insights, to make educated decisions about staffing. Firefighting mode is the norm now and new fires erupt every day. With unexpected surges paired with a national nursing shortage, hospital units are left understaffed and scrambling to ensure appropriate coverage. My nursing colleagues can attest that the whole situation not only results in a frustrated, overworked nursing team, but has direct impact on patient care. 

Our Hospital IQ Staffing solution supports healthier, balanced workloads by delivering accurate patient census predictions so that staffing can be assigned, or re-assigned, based on actual demand. Using an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled hospital operations management platform, we’re able to provide insights into nurse staffing needs days or weeks in advance. By integrating with existing workforce management and other applicable systems, we apply system-specific policies, machine learning, and optimization algorithms to provide precise staffing recommendations.

I’ve seen the impact in action.

 

HELPING NURSING LEADERS BALANCE STAFF UTILIZATION

With transparency into upcoming staffing needs across all units, nursing leaders that use Hospital IQ can dynamically plan staffing needs to ensure nursing staff are in optimal situations. Instead of solving crises in the moment, nurse managers know what’s coming and can adjust assignments as census predictions change. One huge benefit is the ability to keep nurses in their own units as much as possible. When nurse managers are able to plan and collaborate optimal use of float pools, it makes it easier to staff in difficult circumstances. With this level of collaboration and transparency, nurses feel like more than just a number and that management cares – both about them and about delivering a higher quality of patient care. 

 

“In nursing, adding numbers isn’t always the answer. We want to be smarter and more efficient with our existing resources. Hospital IQ has given us the ability to be proactive about our staffing needs and helps us assign, or re-assign, staff based on the actual demand.”

Shawna Gunn
Manager of Operations, Mercy One Des Moines

 

DELIVERING A BENEFIT THAT’S TRULY VALUABLE TO NURSES

While there are dozens of technology interventions available to nursing leaders, the first consideration is to deliver a benefit bedside nurses see as valuable in their day-to-day working environment. When nurse managers can predictively balance staff to patient demand, department and float pool staff days can be planned in advance. This ensures appropriate patient coverage hours or days before a labor crisis develops, resulting in better patient care, a balanced workload, and better staff satisfaction. 

 

WEBINAR: RETHINKING STAFF SHORTAGES

In a webinar entitled Rethinking Staff Shortages, hosted by the American Nurse Journal, presenters Danielle Bowie, VP of Nursing Workforce Development at Bon Secours Mercy Health, and Shawna Gunn, Virtual RN/BSN at Mercy One Medical Center, articulate the problem and explore solutions in more depth. I encourage you to access the recording to hear their perspective on the opportunities and benefits of predictive analytics to alleviate nurse leaders’ constant staffing challenges.

 

HELPING SUPPORT THE NOBLE MISSION AND REWARDING CAREER OF BEDSIDE NURSING

Looking through the lens of a 16-year-old girl with her first experience in a hospital setting, staring at every action nurses were taking to care for their patients, and admiring their stark white uniforms and caps, I knew at that very moment this was the path I was going to take. I admired everything that nursing stood for. Today, I’m tasked to assess Hospital IQ’s solutions and answer how we deliver solutions that support the nursing workforce today. I’m also determined to change the current narrative and encourage future generations that caring for and comforting patients and families at the bedside is a noble mission and rewarding in ways you can’t even imagine. 

 

Teri Ridge, RN
Director, Clinical Solutions, Hospital IQ

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