Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry, providing critical patient care in every care setting. As a nurse and an informaticist, I witness the burnout every day and hospitals struggling with workforce shortages, and the repercussions pervasive to healthcare in 2023.
I recently joined a panel of nursing and healthcare leaders at the Health 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The panel, titled “Revitalizing the Nursing Profession: Tackling the Workforce Crisis Together,” addressed key challenges facing the modern nursing industry and strategies for mitigating these challenges.
One of those strategies we introduced in April when we celebrated National Nurses Month by encouraging healthcare providers and consumers to show year-round gratitude for this critical role and to Think Differently about ways to make nurses’ jobs easier, including utilizing clinician-centered technology.
Healthcare leaders address nursing challenges in 2023
Nursing workforce shortages aren’t expected to let up any time soon. Prior data showed that a third of nurses were likely to leave direct patient care in the next year and the U.S. estimates we’ll need approximately 1.2 million new RNs by 2030 to address the current and projected shortage.
Burnout isn’t the only issue plaguing the nursing profession. As we discussed on the leadership panel, another is the influx of travel nurses and the challenges this trend is causing for the profession.
- According to one study, 32% of nurses in permanent roles said the increase in travel nurses at their organization made them feel dissatisfied or caused compensation issues;
- 47% believed that the quality of care at their organizations was suffering from the increase of temporary staffing;
- Permanent nurses also reported that temporary staffing was leading to a less cohesive and supportive unit culture. This perceived lack of community could be a key contributor to increased burnout.
In addition to high-stress environments, nurses decide to leave their current role or the profession due to dissatisfaction with their pay or benefits, schedule flexibility, or training and career advancement opportunities. Another major stressor and concern is violence. In fact, 65% of nurses report being verbally or physically abused by patients or family members of patients, and many experience discrimination from patients, families, co-workers, and supervisors. It’s a tough job, made even tougher in the last few years.
While these findings paint a dire picture of the state of nursing in 2023, the silver lining is that there is a strong appetite among healthcare leaders to improve these conditions, and many tools at their disposal to enact change.
What strategies make for a resilient nursing workforce?
Panelists at Health 2.0 addressed the issue from a variety of angles, agreeing to the need for a multi-layered approach. One panelist suggested increasing implementation of staff wellness and employee assistance programs (EAPs), while others spoke about building a supportive health system culture and preparing nurses to take on leadership roles through training and coaching. Panelists also raised the need to increase collaboration and advocacy, prioritize recruitment of permanent nurses over travelers, innovate staffing models, and provide high quality compensation and recognition to improve recruitment and retention.
As a nurse informaticist, I addressed how enterprise technology can reduce the administrative burden on nurses, lessening burnout and freeing up time for patient care. With new care delivery models such as virtual nursing, travelers, and team-based care increasing in prevalence, healthcare technology must adapt to support these models. As we saw in symplr’s 2022 Compass Survey of health system CIOs, the majority of healthcare organizations have an excess of tech solutions for healthcare operations, making the burden on nurses and other frontline workers even more intense.
A longitudinal study conducted by AONL found that nurse managers reported spending 60-80% of their shift on recruiting, staffing, and scheduling. With so little time left growing and retaining their staff, it’s no wonder that 45% of nurse managers reported an intention to leave their roles.
Hospitals and health systems must be intentional and prospective when bringing technology into the hands of nurses. Many organizations throw technology at problems to solve them without looking holistically at what they are adding the nurse’s shift and work experience.
Another factor that can impact work satisfaction is the nurse-physician dynamic—a topic I spoke about recently in Becker’s Hospital Review with symplr Chief Medical Officer Dr. Angel Mena. Unsupportive or uncollaborative nurse-physician relationships can significantly increase burnout, fatigue, and frustration among nurses and physicians. Role-based collaboration between physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can not only reduce burnout but also improve the quality of patient care. To foster more positive and cooperative nurse-physician dynamics, healthcare organizations must implement interventions and technology that will facilitate collaboration and improve clinical communication.
Strengthening and supporting the nursing workforce will require the commitment and effort of healthcare industry professionals of all kinds. Recently, industry leaders signed a pledge committing to advancing healthcare operations through a multi-faceted approach. The pledge outlines the need to optimize healthcare operations technology to empower decision-making, prioritize user experience, unite around a single reliable source of truth for provider data, expand patient access while building loyalty, and ultimately facilitate the advancement of patient care. Taking these steps will help healthcare organizations improve the lives of both patients and healthcare workers.