How self-scheduling technology can empower nurses and shore up staffing shortages

Nursing shortages are a serious problem for hospitals and health systems across the country. One way to help alleviate this situation is to give nurses more control over when they work and how they claim their shifts.

During Becker's Hospital Review's 13th Annual Meeting, in a roundtable sponsored by CareRev, Will Patterson, RN, founder and CEO of CareRev, and two leaders from Advocate Health's Aurora Health Care— Naomi Dolohanty, System Vice President for Talent Acquisition, and Jane Dus, DNP, Regional Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President for Nursing Education and Professional Development, led a discussion about how healthcare organizations can transform their workforce strategies with an eye to improving retention and satisfaction. 

CareRev is a technology platform connecting healthcare facilities with local, pre-qualified healthcare professionals on-demand.

Three key insights:

1. Workforce strategy transformation starts with leader transformation. In the past, talent acquisition strategy was built on assessing whether job candidates "fit in a box." Now, with widespread labor shortages and candidates placing greater value on cultural fit, organizations must "ask people in" — which largely depends on leaders' willingness to adopt this attitude and help propagate it system-wide, Ms. Dolohanty said.

2. New generations of healthcare professionals prioritize flexible scheduling and meaningful work. "They're no longer your grandmother's healthcare workforce and we need to convey that we recognize that out of the box," Dr. Dus said, referring to millennial nurses. She detailed that providing optionality to work partial shifts, do mission-driven work and feel connected can help organizations attract and retain new workers. 

On the flip side, one common reason why nurses are leaving the profession in droves is because they are often asked to do work that underutilizes their capabilities, such as transporting patients, stocking shelves or cleaning rooms. Discontinuing this practice is "not just about retention for your system, it's about retention to keep professionals in the industry," Mr. Patterson noted. 

3. If deployed thoughtfully, AI-powered technology can help create a better place for nurses to work. With many health systems running lean on nurses, technology can help — but should not be expected to have full impact on FTEs. Rather, tech-supported modalities such as virtual nursing can be used to free up bedside nurses from doing administrative tasks such as patient follow-up calls, admissions and discharges, so they can dedicate their talents to more demanding tasks.

Another way in which AI-powered technology can support organizations is by predicting vacancy rates and staffing needs — and providing a platform that visualizes upcoming available shifts based on data. That way, pre-approved nurses who wish to work those shifts can claim them from a mobile app instead of depending on a nursing manager to do the scheduling through a manual, labor-intensive scheduling process.

Looked at strategically, shift work is a solution for fluctuating vacancy rates. "A lot of healthcare systems don't have the tools at the staffing unit level to understand what their vacancy rates are," Mr. Patterson said. He noted that CareRev is refining its vacancy rate prediction capabilities and expects to make them available to partner organizations in the near future.

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