Revolutionizing nursing with an empowerment care model

Upended and disoriented by healthcare reform that has restructured healthcare organizations and is transforming how care is delivered, the nursing workforce has felt the ramifications of maintaining an outdated care delivery model.

In recent years, nurses have been subject to heavier workloads, lower staffing levels, and poor and complex work environments. Such conditions that have plagued sites of care throughout America have sparked unacceptable increases in burnout, turnover and vacancies. Nursing represents the largest sector of the healthcare workforce, with nurses touching 125.7 million patients each year in the United States, according to the CDC. Healthcare leaders must modernize nursing care models to decrease burnout and empower nurses to improve and advance the care they deliver.

Burnout is an epidemic that affects about half of the nation’s nursing workforce. According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, burnout in nurses leads to lower levels of engagement and productivity and increased workforce accidents, which have been linked to decreased care quality, safety and patient satisfaction.

Why has burnout ravaged the nursing workforce? Traditional models of care delivery have not prepared nurses for the problems they experience today. Work environments in the nursing industry lack the ability to accurately predict workflow, resulting in inefficiencies in hospital systems. Consequently, nurses all too often fail to find sufficient meaning in their work, experience moral distress and are unable to deliver the type of care they wish to provide.

To more fully deliver on our mission of providing compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable, Ascension understood the need to confront these issues head on. So, one of Ascension’s care sites in the southeastern United States developed and trialed an empowerment nursing care model. The model sought to strengthen nurses’ leadership abilities to improve their practice and mitigate the complexity of today’s healthcare environment.

After a four-month discovery phase, it became evident that nurses were experiencing burnout along with feelings of being overworked, overwhelmed and underprepared. Traditional care delivery models did not apply to the nurses’ new world of complexity, technological advancement and high patient acuity. Nurses were fighting daily for their own physiological safety.

The integration of a new care model included leadership development, agile methodology, design thinking and formation. Nurses became empowered by learning how to problem-solve and articulate concerns and solutions, so they were able to confidently address complex, modern issues and improve their practice environment. Unit management and hospital leadership were taught transformational leadership skills to give nurses the time and space they needed to be creative and innovative, express themselves and solve problems, while flattening the hierarchy of the organization.

Nurses quickly began taking ownership of their work environment. Leaders could provide organizational support by rerouting their focus to removing barriers for nurses to implement their solutions successfully.

With each team member being given voice and autonomy to provide excellent care for their specific patients and for the greater community, the empowered nurses on the unit not only transformed their culture but also transformed how care is delivered within the organization.

The ramifications of burnout are impeding high-quality care from being provided by nurses to millions of Americans because of the modern nursing care delivery model. Advancements in nursing will not occur without direct adjustments and a concise plan for adaptation. It is imperative that we, as healthcare leaders, reimagine the future of nursing care delivery models and revolutionize how our nurses provide care to our patients and communities.

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