Modern Problems Require Modern Solutions: Addressing the Nursing Shortage with Inge Garrison, Chief Clinical and Services Officer, RLDatix

We spoke with RLDatix’s Chief Clinical and Services Officer, Inge Garrison, about the staffing crisis across the healthcare continuum. She shared her outlook, along with some thoughts on how technology might be able to help.

We hear consistently about the nursing shortage… how are you seeing its impact when speaking with your colleagues and partners?

I see the impact of a strained workforce every day across our customer base. Whether it’s learning new technologies, capturing additional documentation, or caring for an increasingly complex patient mix, the nursing workforce has been stretched rather thin for some time. COVID-19 certainly escalated the strain on staff, but conversations about an aging workforce and clinicians and staff consistently being asked to do more with less have been going on for quite some time. 

It’s astounding that a profession continually recognized for its compassion, strength, and resilience is suffering. And this suffering is universal across all nursing disciplines and every aspect of the care continuum. If the past two years have taught us anything, it's that nurses are NOT okay and that has a direct impact on both patient care and staff retention. Our customers feel it in a variety of ways — certainly financially, as expensive temporary labor is often used to fill the gap — but it also prevents them from having the “luxury” of time to evolve the way they work and drive efficiency. Leveraging an established, evidence-based peer support program can help to identify systemic factors contributing to burnout and staff turnover and even get ahead of them.  

We know there is no silver bullet for this, but how can technology help mitigate the nursing shortage?

This is the critical balancing act. Certainly, advanced technologies and buzzwords like “blockchain” and “artificial intelligence” are going to expand into the healthcare continuum and assist, drive efficiencies, and expedite learnings, but I prefer to take a page from Florence Nightingale’s book and return to the basics. The number one reason nurses want to leave the bedside is because of unsafe staffing — this is not just a ratio issue; it’s also a skill mix/competency issue. How can we advance the way we schedule staff to ensure caregivers are practicing at the top of their license, maximizing existing staff, flexing across the organization, and giving caregivers control of their schedules? We have to start by having robust credentialing processes in place to ensure we have the right staff at the right time to provide the right care. Simply put, modern problems require modern solutions. We can no longer address the complexity of scheduling a variety of shifts, caregivers, preferences, and contracts with a host of one-off technologies, spreadsheets, and white boards. (Of course, everyone says they have a scheduling system, but I promise you, for nearly every unit, the single source of truth is the spreadsheet, and there are spreadsheets upon spreadsheets to handle exceptions and planning.) A truly effective workforce management solution will leave behind the layers of administrative burden and risk — and instead, translate to improved productivity, reduced costs and a safer staff. 

Sounds like yet another technology system to automate workflows… how is this solution different?

Fair. IT vendors have been attempting to automate workflows with technology for a few decades — some with great success, others with less return on investment. At RLDatix, we’re very excited about the recent acquisition of nurse staffing/scheduling and communication software used extensively across the NHS in the UK for the past 20 years. It truly is a modern approach to scheduling, with a proven ROI, reducing agency spend AND boasting high satisfaction among nurses and nurse managers alike! Finally, a solution for all!

The most compelling components are the ability for a real-time view of staffing ratios to ensure safer care AND a native app that puts nurses in control of their schedules. The literature shows us longer shifts and overtime are associated with increased patient errors and undesirable nurse health outcomes. With this new level of insight and autonomy, we’ll be able to see the direct impact of appropriate staffing and aligning competencies with safety events. It's a natural extension of the decades of partnership RLDatix has with customers throughout the United States as we work together to reinforce their safety and compliance initiatives.

Even if the solution delivers on your promises, how do you envision incorporating such significant technological and process changes in today’s resource-constrained environment?

Another fair question.  We understand that this will be a significant undertaking and investment for any client. However, we also bring decades of proven experience to guide the process and leverage best practices that go beyond the implementation process and into long-term adoption.

We begin each engagement with a current-state assessment and clear documentation about what to expect.  From there, we partner with your organization to integrate other systems (such as HRIS and payroll solutions), optimize existing workflows, and ultimately lay the groundwork for holistic change and a more mature scheduling process.  Our overarching goal is to foster effective communication among all stakeholders and help our clients prioritize the health and safety of patients and staff alike.  It’s a journey that takes time, but it’s a proven path that helps organizations save money, drive satisfaction, and ultimately provide better patient care, which is why we’re all here in the first place.

Interested in learning more about RLDatix and how the services and support team can enable you to deliver safer care? Visit our website.

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