“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
The impact of this age-old proverb is unrivaled in our coronavirus pandemic era. It’s no secret that the last few years have forced innovation into nearly every industry worldwide, and it’s abundantly true for healthcare organizations. Between overloaded hospitals, limited staff, and unprecedented employee burnout, the healthcare industry will remain in a “sink or swim” phase for the foreseeable future. Nursing staff, in particular, have been leaving the profession in droves, as covered extensively by news media. This has put extra strain on organizations to rethink procedures, find ways to retain employees, and adopt new technologies all while upholding the quality of care and maintaining positive patient outcomes. According to the American Nurses Association, the nursing shortage is expected to increase to more than half a million vacancies by 2026. Organizations are getting creative to address the challenges.
While some trends come and go, others remain for the long haul. Here are some of the nursing practices you should pay attention to in 2022 because they are here to stay.
Mitigating Nursing Staff Burnout
You’ve probably experienced firsthand (or at least heard the endless coverage of) nursing staff quitting their jobs due to extended hours, unprecedented stress, and even attacks from unruly patients and visitors. This is one of the largest pain points for most hospitals and is a primary driver for the new age of healthcare innovation. Mitigating staff burnout treats the problem at its source. While some burnout will come with the territory, many healthcare organizations are already taking steps to minimize its severity by focusing more on employee engagement and wellness.
- Give them a voice. When it comes to making an employee feel valued, including them in policy and leadership discussions is most effective. Giving nurses a voice when it comes to decision making, particularly when it directly affects them, allows them to have more control over their job and creates autonomy, which has proven to reduce burnout.
- Expand support programs. Never before has nursing been so stressful. Give your nursing staff avenues to cope with the high-stress environment to make their mental health and wellbeing top priorities. Everyone utilizes self-care methods in some capacity, so ask your staff what would work best for them. Whether it’s optimized break scheduling, having mental health experts on standby, or other methods, support programs go a long way to ameliorate staff burnout.
- Identify pain points. Each organization is different, so it’s important to look inward to find out what your specific pain points are. Nursing burnout can happen due to emotional and physical exhaustion, lack of upward mobility, or feeling psychologically disconnected from the great care they provide their patients. Take some time to speak with your staff in order to identify why burnout is happening and how you can create a plan moving forward.
At-Home and Virtual Care
No longer are the hospital bricks the boundary for patient care — telehealth is here to stay. One of the enormous shifts in healthcare is the setting in which it is delivered. Hospital admission is no longer a necessity for a growing number of patients, and the reasoning is threefold:
- The pandemic has forced organizations to prioritize inpatient care for those who are critically ill
- Technological advancements have increased the reliability of remote patient monitoring
- With nursing staff dwindling, such technology eases the burden of staffing losses
Now, many patients can be sent home with monitoring software that is capable of tracking weight, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, etc. Nursing staff or primary caregivers can do periodic virtual checkups and dispatch additional care if a patient starts to become unstable.
Providing virtual care can be a way to utilize staff in new ways to reduce burnout rates and to provide efficient and cost effective care. We’ve found that typically, one nurse can perform virtual check-ins with 3-5 patients per hour and provide high quality assessment and patient satisfaction.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, various telehealth flexibilities enabled patient access to their providers,” said HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Rebecca Haffajee. “Pre-pandemic telehealth visits for Medicare beneficiaries went from hundreds of thousands to tens of millions, with many utilizing telehealth for the first time.”
So, while virtual care is not necessarily a new concept, it has been bolstered by the pandemic, showing the world that it’s here to stay.
Using Technology & New Models for Safer, Less Invasive Care
Technological advancements aren’t just limited to virtual care but also enhance inpatient care. Many organizations have seen marked improvements in patient outcomes and operational efficiency by employing these innovative tools and care models.
In-Hospital Virtual Sitters (aka TeleSitters)
Virtual care doesn’t apply only to patients at home — virtual sitters are also employed within the hospital setting to monitor all patients from a centralized location. Traditionally, patients who need to be constantly monitored require a sitter with them 24/7. The sitter would notify nursing staff if the patient became restless, attempted to get out of bed, or tried to remove IVs or oxygen, for example.
Today, TeleSitters can employ smart beds and other monitoring technology that can signal if a patient begins to move in the bed so that a nurse can be notified before a fall occurs. Such technology is also far more adept at taking in complex inputs and identifying patterns in patient vital signs, which can more accurately predict if a patient is deteriorating and notify a rapid response team to avert a full code call.
TeleSitters are also highly cost-effective for those who employ them. According to Harvard Law’s Bill of Health,
“. . .a TeleSitter system decreased patient falls across 11 hospitals by 51%. AvaSure, the maker of Avasys, estimates that TeleSitter implementation, including the technology, training, and labor, costs about 20% of the average cost of hiring sitters. While costs vary by institution, the technology can save hospitals up to $2.5 million over two years.”
TeleSitters have been in use for some time now, but are becoming increasingly ubiquitous during the COVID era. Their efficiency,cost effectiveness, and ability to allow staff to concentrate on other priorities are significant indicators that TeleSitters will soon become essential to every healthcare organization.
In recent years, due to the coronavirus pandemic, emerging stories have described how some retired nurses are getting back into the saddle to provide telehealth support and clinical education. In fact, a recent study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that “Recruiting from the pool of non-working registered nurses is a strategy to meet demands in the nursing workforce.”
With recent technological innovations, it’s never been easier for retired nurses to impart their wisdom onto their younger colleagues, provide virtual care to patients, or provide other much-needed services such as serving in command centers and staffing a COVID-19 hotline.
Kirby Bates Can Help You Lead Through Uncertain Times
It has never been more important for healthcare executives to reassess and innovate in their operations in order to overcome today’s challenges. Because Kirby Bates Associates is led and operated exclusively by experienced healthcare and nurse executives, more and more leading healthcare organizations partner with us to fill clinical and administrative roles with high performing leaders.
We provide several leadership services, including Executive Search, Interim Leadership, and Executive Advisory Services.
Find out how we can help you by getting in touch today.