Solutions to attract and retain nurses: How technology can help providers build a more flexible approach to staffing

Health system leaders are grappling with persistent nursing shortages, which have become a national emergency. With traditional remedies falling short, new tools and solutions are needed.

During Becker's 10th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable, in a session sponsored by Trusted Health, Frank Williams, co-founder and director of Evolent Health and chairman & CEO of The Advisory Board Company, moderated a discussion with executive healthcare workforce leaders. They focused on how health systems can better attract and retain nurses by harnessing state-of-the-art technologies and transforming how they interact with nurses. Panelists were:

  • Dani Bowie, DNP, RN, Vice President, Clinical Strategy & Transformation, Trusted Health
  • Anita Girard, DNP, RN, Chief Nursing Officer/Vice President of Nursing, Cedars Sinai (Los Angeles)
  • Betty Jo Rocchio, DNP, RN, Senior Vice President/System Chief Nursing Officer, Mercy Hospital (St. Louis)

Three key insights were:

  1. Nursing shortages have been growing since 2000, but clinical care models haven't kept pace. One needed adjustment is the inclusion of front-line nurses and nursing leaders in discussions about strategic priorities and operations — or "having a say in what goes on in the organization," as Dr. Girard put it. She said Cedars Sinai recently restructured its governance model to enable nurses to come forward with suggestions about specific changes they want to see made.

    Adjustments are also needed in how organizations contract with nurses. Dr. Rocchio said Mercy is looking at building a flexible workforce that can expand and contract as needed, but without paying the type of fees that an external agency commands for supplying locum nurses. "We're not going to do this without some technology and analytics."

  2. A modernized approach to attracting nurses means flexibility and frictionless workflows. That includes designing clinical workflows in a way that makes it easy to follow evidence-based practices, automating shift scheduling to allow nurse managers to spend more time supporting their teams, enabling nurses to practice at the top of their license and discussing not only staffing and compensation but also career development and upskilling. Dr. Girard added that reducing workplace violence, which front-line caregivers often find themselves subjected to, is also critical to providers' ability to retain nurses.

  3. Technology will be key to addressing talent shortages and removing friction. Automated and predictive staffing systems along with apps that allow nurses to pick up shifts when and where they want to work are some ways to achieve those goals. "That begs the question: do we have a nursing shortage or are we just not using our resources efficiently?" Dr. Rocchio asked. She noted that Mercy's nurse managers' workload dropped by 20 percent when they started using the Mercy Works OnDemand, an automated staffing platform that Generation Z nurses have been especially happy to select their shifts through the app.

"Workforce transformation is not an endpoint, but a journey," Dr. Bowie said.

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