Healthcare is a fast-paced and demanding industry that has undergone profound challenges over the past few years, and its frontline employees are taking the brunt of the impact. Burnout among nurses is not new, but the pandemic significantly exacerbated it. While the world begins to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, America’s nurses are still trying to catch their breath.
The intersection of rising patient volumes and staffing challenges has led to a significant drop in nursing satisfaction rates. This overextension puts healthcare professionals at risk of burnout, impacting their physical and mental well-being. A 2023 AMN Healthcare survey discovered that the satisfaction level among registered nurses has plummeted to 71%, reflecting the strain on care teams. The consequences of nurse burnout are far-reaching, affecting the individuals directly involved and the quality of care delivered to patients. To combat this growing epidemic, many hospital systems are left with the decision to deploy comprehensive technology solutions to fill the gaps and take some of the burden off the patient care teams’ shoulders.
The Need for Innovation
Addressing nurse burnout requires a proactive approach, and innovative solutions can be pivotal in transforming the landscape of patient care, whether in-patient or home-based. Organizations must prioritize the well-being of their nursing staff and seek tools that provide actionable insights into care team satisfaction. It is crucial to investigate solutions that assess the current state of nursing satisfaction and offer strategies to enhance their professional experience. Some tools that provide these essential benefits include:
Mobile Communication for Patient Care: As clinical outcomes become increasingly tied to revenue, home health, and hospice care require intricate documentation during every visit. Overlooking even a minor detail can significantly impact the level of care provided to your patients and expose an organization’s systems to noncompliance risks. Utilizing a mobile collaboration tool, nurses receive user-friendly prompts, reminders, and notifications and can efficiently record documentation during each visit, avoiding needing to catch up later. These systems also empower users to personalize assessment forms and pathways, reducing duplicate entries and ensuring agency and state compliance.
Education and Training: Boosting retention efforts by developing programs that train, provide ongoing education, and touch base with nurses throughout their first year and beyond is crucial to enhancing the nurse experience and reducing burnout. Leveraging an end-to-end collaboration solution ensures agencies and healthcare systems have the tools and knowledge to run successful training programs. Some ways to bring these programs to life include:
Adopting a blended learning model, integrating in-person and online methods to cater to diverse learning styles for new hires.
Setting clear time-to-productivity goals with a structured roadmap for nurses, ensuring a smooth transition and realistic expectations.
Implementing a robust documentation system to address challenges, support accurate record-keeping, and address education gaps.
Streamlining compliance tracking through a reliable system, ensuring timely completion of required education and facilitating verifiable proof when necessary.
The Role of Clinician Scorecards
One of the most essential things a platform can do for its users is make it a priority to listen to caregivers and act on those insights consistently. This is where tools like clinician scorecards become paramount. These tools work as a comprehensive means to evaluate and improve the well-being of nurses and field clinicians by going beyond traditional metrics and delving into the intricacies of nursing satisfaction levels.
By Cindy Gaines, chief clinical transformation officer, Lumeon.
Reflecting on the past couple years, it’s become clear that staffing shortages have taken a toll on nursing physically, emotionally and mentally, leading to declining retention rates, inadequate resources, and, at times, concern for their mental health.
Staffing shortages are not just the result of a pandemic, but of an aging workforce. Hospitals are faced with the challenge of addressing the work environment not just in the context of a pandemic, but holistically.
Through the years, we have equipped nurses and care staff with equipment such as computers, pagers, tablets, and zone phones to help them connect with patients, family members, doctors, labs, radiology and outside services. This equipment is necessary for their work but has had unintended consequences. As nurses manage medications and juggle competing priorities, they are constantly bombarded with a world of distraction. This creates safety risks in the care environment.
Additionally, this technology has introduced service expectations created to support the patient and family experience. For example, a phone call must be answered within 3 rings—great customer service for the caller, but it takes the nurse away from the patient currently being cared for. At times, technology meant to support the care process has become a barrier between the nurse and the patient.
This stressful work environment is further complicated by very real staffing issues in our country. Demographic data suggests that the average median age of a nurse is 52 years old and that 20% of RNs are 65 years or older, meaning hospitals can expect gaps in staffing as this age group ages out and begins to retire. While this seems like an opportunity to usher in a new generation of young, fresh-minded nurses, nursing programs are unable to graduate enough people to supply this gap in the industry due to an overwhelming lack of resources.
These factors together have created the perfect storm of a care staff shortage.
Being a healthcare professional is an honor, but it’s not without its challenges. Most providers are required to work long hours with few breaks to provide adequate coverage to their patients. The fluctuating workload and constant exposure to life, death and everything in between essentially takes a toll both physically and psychological on healthcare professionals. Working in such a fast-paced, high-demand atmosphere almost non-stop can lead to employee burnout.
When doctors, nurses, or supporting staff becomes physically and emotionally exhausted as a result of work-related stress and pressures, it’s only a matter of time before there is a decline in their performance. Healthcare providers become overwhelmed and are unable to provide the high-quality of care and treatment their patients deserve. This puts the organization, provider, and patient at risk. Some, even become so consumed that they quit, leaving medical practices and hospitals understaffed (which creates higher risks for burnout in other staff who have to pick up the slack).
To minimize the risk of burnout in your healthcare organization, it is imperative to develop a workplace environment that supports the well-being of your staff. First, knowing when an employee is on the verge of a breakdown or burnout is vital. Some signs might include:
Emotional or physical fatigue
Overly sensitive or insensitive to emotional information
Lack of empathy or sympathy for their patients
Withdrawal or isolation
Lack of concentration
Careless or increased mistakes
Poor decision making
Drug or alcohol abuse
Frequent call outs
Get them help
The idea here is preventative measures but in the event that you notice a staff member struggling or experiencing the above-mentioned destructive behaviors like substance abuse, knowing where to send them for help is ideal. This includes recommending an addiction treatment center in Los Angeles or some other city where they can get affordable, confidential help with their addiction or dependency issues.
Other ways to help your providers
Healthcare organizations have a responsibility to ensure their providers are physically and mentally capable of providing adequate services to their patients. A major part of this means providing a working environment where staff members well-being is a priority and they feel supported, heard, and encouraged. Here are some things you can do:
Offer solutions to their problems
Your employees need to know that they have someone they can turn to if there are problems in the workplace. Upper management and/or the HR department need to not only make themselves available to listen but must be willing and ready to provide assistance where they can. Whether that’s helping them to resolve a conflict with a coworker, looking into more advanced technology to improve productivity and decrease their workload, or updating breakrooms to make them more accommodating, it is the responsibility of the organization to make sure that they are meeting the needs of their providers.