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Staffing shortages is a patient safety issue

Burnout and staffing shortages can lead to critical errors in patient care, but technology and teamwork can alleviate those affects.
By admin
Jun 13, 2023, 9:03 AM

Staffing shortages in healthcare facilities have become an increasingly critical issue, threatening the quality and safety of patient care. The consequences of inadequate staffing are far-reaching, affecting not only the patients but also the healthcare professionals who strive to provide the best care possible. 

“What is shocking to me, is that debate still rages as to whether doctors & other healthcare professionals are actually human — whether having us over-worked, under-staffed and under-resourced hurts patient care,” shared Megan Ranney, MD, and dean of the Yale School for Public Health. 

The answer is unequivocally yes. 

One of the most immediate consequences of staffing shortages is compromised patient safety. A recent  study found a “dramatic reduction in medical errors when first-year resident physician work hours were limited,” and after imposing a work limit, “resident-physician-reported medical errors and adverse events dropped by more than a third, and medical errors resulting in patient death declined by almost two-thirds.”

Insufficient staffing levels lead to heavy workloads and fatigue among healthcare professionals, increasing the risk of medical errors, medication mistakes, and adverse events. Inadequate supervision and monitoring of patients can result in delayed interventions and compromised clinical outcomes.

The well-being of healthcare professionals is also impacted by staffing shortages. Excessive workloads, long hours, and burnout become prevalent as healthcare providers attempt to compensate for the staffing deficit. This chronic strain can negatively affect job satisfaction and lead to higher turnover rates, exacerbating the staffing crisis and further compromising patient care.

It is projected that within the next year, one out of every three registered nurses who directly care for patients may choose to resign from their positions, according to a recent survey. This prediction underscores the severity of the ongoing nursing shortage. At present, numerous nurses are departing from bedside care as a result of burnout and frustration. 

Leveraging technology and teamwork 

Addressing clinician burnout and subsequent staffing shortages requires a concerted team effort within healthcare organizations. Implementing collaborative care models that involve interdisciplinary teams can distribute workload and promote a shared responsibility for patient care. This approach allows healthcare professionals to work together, leverage each other’s strengths, and provide comprehensive care while preventing burnout associated with excessive individual workload.

Some hospitals have turned to artificial intelligence (AI) virtual command centers that can monitor incoming patients, receive alerts, and communicate with the clinical staff. This efficient process reduces patient waiting times for admission and allows hospitals to utilize their rooms more effectively, accommodating a greater number of patients and minimizing vacant rooms.

One of the most significant contributors to burnout in healthcare professionals is administrative burdens, which is estimated to take almost 25% of physicians’ time according to a recent study

UNC Health has partnered with Epic to pilot their first ever EHR with AI capabilities. The system will automatically draft responses to patient messages, which is considered the most time-intensive administrative task, and physicians will review the message before sending. 

Healthcare leadership plays a crucial role in eliminating non-value-added work and supporting clinicians. 

After observing processes at Duke Raleigh Hospital, healthcare leadership learned that nurses 30% on “time-wasting” activities, like dealing with duplicate documentation. 

Leaders can advocate for process improvements and workflows that minimize administrative burdens. They can work with regulatory bodies to streamline documentation and reporting requirements without compromising patient safety or quality of care. 

Staffing shortages in healthcare have reached a critical juncture, posing significant risks to patient care and the well-being of healthcare professionals. The repercussions of inadequate staffing are detrimental to patient safety, continuity of care, and overall healthcare quality. By leveraging technology and teamwork, healthcare systems can mitigate staffing shortages, leading to a brighter future for both patients and those who care for them.

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