'There's nothing new going on': ANA president pushes for nurse scheduling changes

If hospitals listened to nurses and acted on their suggestions, staffing challenges likely would be much less severe, Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, RN, president of the American Nurses Association, told Becker's. But this is not happening, she said.

"We see the same thing over and over again," Dr. Mensik Kennedy said. "Nurses say they're not actually heard or listened to in their organizations. Hospital leaders are talking about engaging nurses and empowering them, but nurses continue to say they don't feel heard." 

"Everyone is saying nurses should be making scheduling decisions, but that's not happening. Nothing is changing. Hospitals talk about all the new innovative models they want to launch. But there's nothing new going on."

ANA is a proponent of "enforceable" nurse-to-patient staffing ratios because safe minimums are the least nurses are requesting, she said, noting ratios would add consistency across the industry. 

"Ratios won't solve all the staffing issues by any means," Dr. Mensik Kennedy said. "But it's one way of showing nurses that people are listening to them."

The Partners for Nurse Staffing Think Tank — a consortium of industry groups — released a list of 65 suggestions to help alleviate the nursing shortage in a May 10 report. Participating organizations included the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the American Organization of Nursing Leadership, the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

The think tank's recommendations, "Priority Topics and Recommendations," published in April 2022, focused on strategies that could be implemented in 12 to 18 months. 

While the ANA's call for minimum ratios has received a lot of attention, Dr. Mensik Kennedy said there is another task force suggestion that deserves immediate consideration: flexible work environments that afford nurses the ability to self-schedule their shifts.

The think tank suggested that nurses be cross-trained to various units "to support well-being during a shift that incorporates time for professional development and leadership engagement such as shared governance," Dr. Mensik Kennedy said.

Strategies that build in flexibility include offering shifts with variable start times and duration. Nurses would also be allowed to work in various roles on different units after cross training.

Further, giving nurses the ability to schedule their own shifts within a flexible work environment would go a long way to giving them what they have been requesting, Dr. Mensik Kennedy said.


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