How CoxHealth flattened nurse turnover

CoxHealth was able to reduce its turnover rate from around 25% to around 11%, which is more than a 50% decrease after its virtual nursing program was able to bring back the passion for its staff members.

The Springfield, Mo.-based health system started its virtual nursing program after it was facing reduced staffing levels after the COVID-19 pandemic.  

"We were working our way back up but we definitely had people retire or had people leaving nursing altogether," Gina Ellerbee, DNP, APRN, administrative director of nursing practice and professional development at CoxHealth, told Becker's. "Additionally, we had a number of inexperienced staff that had less than two years of experience, and a lot of them went to school during the pandemic, which was an alternative learning experience, and so they didn't get as much clinical experience."

Moreover, the complexity of patient care had increased for CoxHealth with medical-surgical patients exhibiting greater acuity than before. Patients who would have previously been in an ICU setting were now in wards, requiring more intensive care, according to Dr. Ellerbee. 

These challenges prompted the health system to focus on brainstorming ideas for how the organization could alleviate some of the burdens for bedside nurses so they could concentrate more on patient care. This led to the creation of the virtual nursing program. 

"We were approved for a 90-day pilot in June 2022," Summer Blackerby, BSN, chief nursing information officer of CoxHealth, told Becker's. "But, even before the 90 days, we knew that we were already starting to see positive results. Certainly our staff satisfaction was quickly rising. They were becoming very invigorated and excited about this type of nursing and also excited about the benefits that they were able to provide to their bedside care teams."

The virtual care team at CoxHealth consists of nurses, hospitalists, pharmacists and respiratory therapists. These employees remotely monitor patients and interact with them via camera, collaborating closely with the bedside care team to address patient needs, creating a "virtual safety net" for patients, according to Ms. Blackerby.

With this program, CoxHealth was able to decrease falls, reduce hospital-acquired infections and decrease turnover for nurses. With these successes, CoxHealth turned that 90-day pilot into a live program by June 6, 2023.  

"I definitely feel it's likely the most impactful work that I've done in my entire career," Ms. Blackerby told Becker's. "I am sure that it would be hard to top this. Virtual nursing has impacted our patients in a positive way, it has improved quality and it has reinvigorated and refueled our staff's passion for what they do."


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