3 CNOs weigh in on nursing industry's biggest challenge in 2022

The problems rooted in a nationwide nursing shortage, including its effect on patient care and safety, is the top concern of three nurse leaders.

Becker's asked three chief nursing officers what the industry's one biggest challenge would be heading into the new year. Below are their answers.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for brevity.

Sara Kollman, DNP. CNO at Kaiser Permanente in Aurora, Colo.: The public health emergency of insufficient and unavailable nursing workforce (COVID-19 impact, the Great Resignation and other root causes). Again, this is an emerging public health emergency and requires an urgent national call to action.

Scott Lethi, BSN, MHA. CNO at Cookeville (Tenn.) Regional Medical Center: The largest challenges we will be facing in 2022 for nursing is staffing among higher patient acuities while maintaining excellence in care. The candidate pool has shrunk, especially among those with experience. Unless something is done about the extreme rates for contract labor, the cycle will continue to self-perpetuate vacancies and communities' brain drain: staff departing for higher compensation without dedication to a home community. The model is not sustainable, and difficult decisions around capacity and services will need to be made for those organizations that cannot continue or choose not to continue to support the exceptional rates being charged for interim staff. This will, in turn, negatively impact emergency departments' and organizations' abilities to invest in items for patient care — especially those organizations that may have had to reduce capacity for staffing and financial reasons.

Rhonda Thompson, DNP. CNO and Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services at Phoenix Children's Hospital: The nursing shortage affecting health systems nationwide will continue to be a challenge in 2022. This has a greater impact than just unfilled positions and scheduling sufficient nurses based on a high patient census. It also means our experienced staff nurses are investing a great deal of time onboarding and training newly licensed nurses, in addition to their own daily bedside care responsibilities. To solve this, it will take collaboration and commitment from our health systems, staff and academic partners. I have the privilege of working for an organization committed to being part of the solution. Internally, our solutions include creative staffing models designed to prevent burnout and offer work/life balance. We believe setting nurses up for a good first year in the workforce actually starts at the academic level, which is why, externally, we have strong partnerships with our academic colleagues to grow and develop the next generation of nurses.

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