How to confront the hospital staffing crisis — 3 insights

Many healthcare facilities are struggling with a shortage of bedside staff, which contributes to burnout, potential missed care, increased length of stay and potential failure to rescue. Insightful, real-time information can help providers better coordinate care across the continuum, which allows bedside staff to focus on care delivery and improving patient outcomes.

During a March webinar, hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by PointClickCare, Jody Rain, RN, BSN, senior clinical solutions lead at PointClickCare, discussed the healthcare staffing crisis and actionable strategies to improve bedside workflow and care communications.

Three insights:

  1. Workforce shortages are negatively affecting providers and patients. According to Ms. Rain, approximately one in five healthcare workers left their jobs between the start of the pandemic and November 2021; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the healthcare sector has lost nearly half a million workers since February 2020. For those who remain, insufficient staff is left to deliver the care that's needed. This results in higher burden on staff, which in turn fuels decreased commitment and lower productivity. "Unhappy employees lead to higher patient complaints and the inability to retain trained or experienced employees," Ms. Rain said.
  2. The staffing crisis increases lengths of stay, which reduces bed availability and negatively affects patient outcomes. The problem is cyclical: bedside staffing shortages lead to discharge delays, which means more incoming patients are waiting for a bed in the emergency room requiring more care. "Insufficient staffing increases length of stay for all nodes of care, stretching into the post-acute market as well," Ms. Rain said. "Without adequate staff, you can't do your discharge planning or manage care coordination. Things are being put off until the next day, because we just don't have the time within those 24 hours to get everything done. That leads to poor patient outcomes, decreased reimbursement and increased costs for organizations."
  3. Technology can help provide some relief by decreasing the workload of bedside staff and improving communications with post-acute providers. Technological solutions for improving workflow can integrate with existing EMRs. These solutions support easy access with a single login and provide real-time, actionable data. "We need to use technology to declutter what a nurse does and get the right signal through all the noise," Ms. Rain said. "It must surface the information that's important to nurses and give them actionable workflow steps, so they're not digging through charts, logging into different systems and second guessing what they're doing."

    Second, technology should help improve communication with post-acute providers by increasing transparency within the network, improving processes to reduce readmissions, giving care coordinators the ability to view patients across the care continuum, and allowing care team members to collectively and virtually collaborate on at-risk and vulnerable patients. "Ultimately, we want to work with, and not against, the workflows of each care setting," Ms. Rain said. "Delivering value-based care improves outcomes at a lower cost, but that requires true care coordination that spans across the entire continuum."

By using technological solutions wisely to reduce bedside staff workload and better coordinate care across the continuum, health systems can reduce stress and burnout for providers and improve patient outcomes and financial performance.

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