The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the bravery and commitment of health care professionals in the face of danger and tragedy. Unfortunately, the continued stress of the crisis took a severe toll on the heroic nurses who provided invaluable care and hope to our communities. It also further exposed the crippling nurse shortage that is plaguing the health care system nationwide and in Texas and increased the call to think outside of the box to address the crisis.
Some hospitals in Texas and across the country are taking steps to address the shortage, and they’re doing it by making changes for a more inclusive and friendly environment – providing nurses with better engagement and empowerment to shape operations and improve patient care.
Addressing the causes
The nursing shortage is a long-standing challenge, but the pandemic has significantly worsened the problem. Nurses and physicians have left in record numbers, due to fatigue and exhaustion. High turnover has severely affected employee morale, creating a snowball effect that could encourage more nurses and other staff to leave. It can also have an impact on attracting new talent.
The difficulties of COVID-19 created a wave of early retirements due in part to the extended period of limited access to medical facilities for both patients and staff. Because hospitals stopped doing elective surgeries – and many patients made it a point to stay away for safety reasons – hospitals had less income and needed to reduce staff to stay afloat. A 2015 study reported that more than 1 million RNs would retire from the workforce between now and 2030. As they go, they take with them their invaluable accumulated knowledge and experience.
Unfortunately, the critical nursing shortage shows no sign of abating, and experts project that 1.2 million new RNs will be needed nationwide in the next eight years in order to address the shortage. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, there are already 23,000 more unfilled RN jobs, and that number is expected to increase 50% by 2030. What’s more, the shortage of RNs will only intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows.
Nursing burnout has been called a pandemic second to COVID-19, and it’s co-terrorizing society with its consequences for healthcare. Exhausted, overburdened medical professionals cannot be expected to do their best work. Yet pandemic conditions have often forced untenable hours on medical staff. Fortunately, however, innovations in technology and healthcare support are changing the playing field.
By allowing for remote work options in the medical field, opening up automation potential, and streamlining communication across healthcare, tech is relieving stress and labor. This acts as a buffer against burnout at a time when it is most needed.
Technology and other healthcare supports make working in healthcare a better experience. As a result, medical professionals are getting much-needed disruptions in their work processes that translate to reduced rates of burnout. Explore these technologies and what they offer healthcare workers.
Making Remote Care Possible
One of the most groundbreaking tech trends of the COVID-era has been telehealth. These virtual care options connect doctors to patients from wherever they can safely and privately conduct a screening. From here, all kinds of positive disruptions are emerging. Paired with point-of-care (POC) tech, remote patient monitoring is more accessible than it has ever been. But how does this prevent burnout in healthcare workers?
Telehealth options for care professionals have been vital in keeping a reserve staff safe from COVID exposure while others fight on the front lines. Additionally, it can work as a means of allowing workers distance from the job without sacrificing their time and talents. That’s because technology currently supports all manner of virtual services. These include:
The healthcare system simply wasn’t ready for COVID-19, and the pandemic has exposed the system’s weak links. The situation has become exacerbated by an ongoing workforce shortage. Not only are a growing number of clinicians nearing retirement, but also burnout — already a problem prior to the pandemic — has become what many are calling a parallel pandemic.
And this isn’t surprising. Nurses have been working overtime week after week, seeing tremendous loss of life firsthand, and now are being asked to support the vaccine rollout – to the tune of 11 million doses per week.
The most pressing question for healthcare tech right now is how can we curb nursing burnout in 2021?
This is a question we’ve been asking since the early days of Health IT, but new responsibilities over the last few months and growing rates of nurses leaving the profession have raised the alarm for technology companies to do more.
Healthcare leaders, clinicians, and educators have responded by developing innovative workforce solutions and education strategies to keep pace with changing care-delivery models. Specifically, around the vaccine rollout, we can ensure nurses have access to rapid, virtual education around administration best practices and patient education.
We also need to streamline the alerts going to these providers so they only receive the most actionable and important information at the point of care. These providers do not have the time to review every new study that comes out around COVID treatment options. Instead, we can leverage digital tools to provide evidence-based information that is actionable and available at the point of care.
This helps eliminate confusion around what action should be taken, and ensures all members of the care team feel empowered to care for their patients. For on-the-job training, as artificial intelligence becomes more refined and its use expands, algorithms could surface insights much earlier that generate mini-lessons, clinical updates, remediation, and reminders within existing workflows.