Using data analytics to help reduce nurse burnout

Jackie Larson, President, Avantas - Print  | 

It’s no secret that the rate of nurse burnout is excessive.

In a field where emotional and physical stress is high, nurses are sometimes considering leaving their jobs within only a few of years of obtaining their license. Factor in the critical nursing shortage the U.S. is enduring, and you have a recipe for intense resource competition between provider organizations.

In response to this shortage, hospitals across the country are offering $10,000 sign-on bonuses, tuition reimbursement, reimbursable relocation costs, and other perks to entice nurses to join their organizations. While these are certainly impressive benefits that can go a long way for a nurse, organizations need to ensure they have workforce practices in place that will continue to benefit nurses once they are in the door.

Strip away the flashy perks and organizations should focus on what workforce processes they can improve to maintain staff satisfaction. Staffing and scheduling is a major cause of frustration for staff. Without the proper tools, scheduling can be a thorn in the side for managers, trying to pin down needs often up until the start of a shift. This typically results in over or understaffing – forcing cancellations and floating, or pushing staffing into extra hours or overtime, which negatively affects morale and leads to nurse burnout.

Predictive analytics is a valuable tool to accurately forecast staffing needs weeks in advance of a shift. Crunching historical census data and other metrics to look for trends and patterns that recur over time can forecast patient in and out flows in a hospital, allowing managers to align the appropriate amount and type of staff needed to deliver care.

Automating the scheduling process and utilizing predictive analytics helps ensure nurse schedules are balanced and staff commitments are being met. This software also optimizes self-scheduling, open shift management, and requesting time off processes, which further boost staff satisfaction.

Another major factor in staff dissatisfaction is working a shift that did not have the right amount or mix of resources. When resources are short for any shift, it results in increased use of core staff in extra and overtime, and/or charge nurses taking patients. In short, core staff is stretched too thin to cover these vacant shifts, causing frustration and burning them out.

The resolution to staffing issues is more accessible than you might expect. Data that hospital leadership has available at their fingertips is able to provide valuable insights that highlights areas of opportunity and trackable metrics. Analyzing payroll data and department metrics can reveal a lot about what is happening on a particular unit.

One metric that often gets overlooked is “FTE leakage” – the amount of hours lost due to core staff not being scheduled to their FTE commitment. This increases a unit’s labor costs and wastes overhead benefit expenses. Focusing attention on employee FTE commitments and ensuring they are met each schedule period can help a unit more appropriately utilize their staff to meet patient demand, relieving the feeling that they are constantly running short staffed.

In an industry that is ever-changing and frantic for resources, provider organizations must be forward-thinking in their workforce management strategies. Being innovative and seeking all avenues toward workforce optimization clears the path to continued growth, keeps staff satisfied in their work, and ensures the right staff are in the right place at the right time to deliver excellent patient care.

Jackie Larson is the president of Avantas, a company that leverages evidence-based solutions to help healthcare providers better manage their workforce. She is a staffing and workforce management guru, passionate about helping healthcare organizations automate and streamline their healthcare labor management strategy.

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