By Mary Varghese Presti, SVP and GM of Dragon Medical, Nuance Communications.
Nursing burnout is reaching unprecedented levels—and it’s creating a vicious circle of staffing shortages and increasing pressure on those who remain. Nearly 37% of nurses report feelings of burnout, and 44% have cited burnout and high stress as top contributors to their desire to leave the field.
Analysts expect the nursing shortage to continue and even intensify in the next 12 months, cementing workforce challenges as a core concern for health system leaders.
Many are beginning to re-examine nurses’ workloads to find better, more efficient ways for them to stay focused on quality patient care while still managing their non-care related tasks.
One key area of focus is helping nurses spend less time trapped at a computer. Documentation is one of the biggest drivers of screen time, taking up as much as 25% of a nurse’s working day and limiting the time they can spend on direct patient care as they update records, complete flowsheets, and review Electronic Health Record (EHR) charts. With nurses’ time at a premium and no option to reduce the amount of comprehensive documentation required for effective, compliant care, here’s how health systems can use technology to relieve some of that burden.
Giving Nurses More Time to Provide Care
Current documentation processes often take nurses away from patient care to a workstation, where they have to navigate electronic medical records (EMRs) and other systems to input patient data. With so much of their attention directed at the computer, it can be difficult for nurses to maintain that all-important patient connection.
But documentation no longer needs to be this complex or time-consuming. The latest advances in AI, clinical intelligence, and natural language understanding allow nurses to capture the entire patient story using their voice—whether they’re with patients, on the go, or at the nurse’s station.
For example, speech recognition can help nurses complete both structured flow sheets and unstructured notes using speech-to-text. We’ve already seen significant progress for physicians using voice technology, especially within EMRs, and it would be easy to replicate with nurses. With the right solution, nurses can dictate at their workstation or using a mobile device, also cutting down on the extra workload of “double documentation” where hand-written notes taken during patient face time need to be transcribed at the computer.
Concord Family Medicine, part of New Hampshire-based Concord Hospital, has already implemented speech recognition to reduce the time its nurses spend writing up notes from triage calls. Within a few weeks, nurses went from spending an average of 17.1 minutes documenting each call to just 6.1 minutes. Using the power of their voices, they can navigate quickly through the EMR to find what they need, whether that’s a medication list or a patient note. The team reported that they were giving more accurate and comprehensive notes to their physicians, and 89% agreed that using speech recognition gave them greater job satisfaction.
Speech recognition can also be combined with a virtual assistant to help nurses complete other tasks hands-free. For example, a nurse working in maternity care can view the patient’s care plan using a mobile device, send a query to the patient’s physician, or enter a nursing order (such as a lactation consult) using just their voice.
Investment Will Improve Nurse Satisfaction and Patient Outcomes
Of course, technologies and process improvements like these require investment. But they’re among the most impactful changes health systems can make to benefit their nurses and, in turn, their patients. Simpler workflows help nurses focus their time on the most rewarding parts of their role—not the time-consuming administration tasks. This benefits everyone, including the health system, as happy, engaged nurses are more productive and empowered to deliver superior patient experiences. Plus, they’re far less likely to suffer from burnout.
You’ll never meet a nurse who chose this career to fill out flow sheets. Every one of them joined the profession to give people compassionate, hands-on care when they need it most.
Adopting tools like speech recognition is the first step to giving nurses the environment they need to help patients toward better outcomes and find more joy in their roles. As hospitals and care teams continue to grapple with the combination of constrained resources, burnout, and an aging population, these tools have gone from nice-to-have to must-have. And with more healthcare IT providers turning their attention to purpose-built solutions for nurses, this movement is set to grow in the coming years.