How healthcare orgs can support nurses
Satisfaction in nursing as a career dropped to 71% after a decade at nearly 85%, according to a recent survey from recruiting firm AMN Healthcare. Only 40% of nurses expect to have the same job a year from now. About 80% of nurses experience a lot of stress, compared to 64% just two years ago.
Several factors contribute to stress and burnout in nurses, from staffing shortages to safety concerns to poor usability in electronic health record (EHR) software. AMN Healthcare also noted the general public’s focus on nurse well-being has diminished as the pandemic has subsided.
Healthcare leaders can not afford to ignore these issues. When nurses experience stress, patients suffer. The latest Safety Grades from Leapfrog Group point to an increase in hospital-acquired infections and a decline in patient experience metrics compared to pre-pandemic figures.
Addressing the issue requires a multi-pronged approach. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recommends more staff and shorter shifts as key starting points. Here are five other strategies for supporting nursing staff through corporate initiatives or technology implementations.
Meaningful support programs. AMN Healthcare’s survey found a positive correlation between well-being program utilization and job satisfaction. Organizations need to make sure staff know services are available, as 35% of nurses said they never attend to their well-being. One opportunity for improvement is comprehensive programming that addresses the root causes of burnout: One 8-week program at AdventHealth in central Florida helped nurses improve levels of resilience and self-compassion while lowering perceived stress.
Fewer interruptions. Equipment failures, documentation requirements, and duplicative alerts from medical devices or EHR systems all interrupt nurses at the bedside, AHRQ noted. Interruptions are unavoidable in many care settings, but they increase the likelihood of errors. Updating hardware and software systems to turn off unnecessary interruptions and maintain continuous operation can help nurses maintain focus.
Increased engagement. When nurses are more involved in institutional decision-making, they’re more likely to feel supported by administration, more comfortable discussing topics such as error prevention and safety improvement with leadership, and less likely to feel that mistakes are being held against them. Engagement, communication, and shared responsibility are all critical to avoiding animosity when temporary nurses – often hired at higher pay rates and with greater flexibility – support full-time staff. Leaders should participate in nursing rounds to better understand the issues front-line staff face.
Virtual nursing. An American Hospital Association commentary described how AdventHealth implemented a virtual nursing program at its Florida campus with two objectives. One was remotely checking on patients in between nursing rounds, which allowed for better continuity of care. The other was supporting bedside nurses at admissions and discharge, which can be stressful times when much information must be shared in a short time.
Additional training. The opportunity to learn improves morale and keeps staff up to date on clinical best practices. Advances in virtual reality training let staff learn at their own pace, in a hands-on manner often absent from in-person learning opportunities, and without risk of cross-contamination or harm to a patient. Organizations may want to consider training’s long-term impact on staffing when hiring, too; according to Vizient, one-year retention rates for nurses that complete standardized residency programs are 8% higher than nurses without residency training.
Brian Eastwood is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience covering healthcare IT and healthcare delivery. He also writes about enterprise IT, consumer technology, and corporate leadership.