How Technology Can Help NHS to Fight Staff Shortage & Burnout in the UK

August 2, 2022

Unfortunately, it seems that we’ve become used to the dire warnings about severe shortages of nurses in healthcare generally and in the NHS in particular. The latest studies indicate that, nationwide, there will still be a shortage of some 38,000 nurses even if the NHS manages to hit current recruitment targets. 

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The problem has long been in the spotlight and industry professionals, government figures and academics have all put forward ideas, plans, and solutions only to see them fail to move the needle in the right direction. 

Much is made of the inevitable consequences of this problem but no effective strategy for addressing has yet to be found, despite the issue being common throughout Europe, North America, and elsewhere. 

The conversation around how to create incentives for new nurses to enter the field is understandably focused on quick fixes like salaries, debt assistance or tuition support for training. But there is increasing recognition of the importance of mitigating some of the more challenging aspects of nursing — like encounters with dangerous patients and automation of workflows — with technological innovations

In fact, there are simple IoT-based solutions that are ideally suited for solving these and other problems that negatively affect the work experience for nurses. Let’s look at just how they work and how they can build a more comfortable work environment that helps to recruit and retain nurses and other healthcare professionals.

An extra layer of security

While there are many reasons for the difficulty in recruiting and holding on to qualified nursing staff, one of the most serious is also one of the least-discussed — the threat of physical violence from volatile and uncooperative patients. 

Of course, nurses, doctors, and others interacting with patients are trained in the extra measures used to minimize violent confrontations and mitigate their effects when they do happen. Still, the heightened threat level is something that adds to the general tension and unease experienced by staff when they have to treat every interaction as a potential physical struggle.

On top of that, there is no question that the number and frequency of violent incidents have increased since the start of the pandemic. 

Nurses suffer one of the highest rates of abuse and physical violence found in any profession. Statistics regarding health care staff duress show that pushing, grabbing, and yelling are the most prevalent types of violence reported in patient rooms. The violent attacks mainly happen when the nurses were restraining patients, triaging patients, or performing invasive procedures.

As reliable as security guards can be, it is impossible for them to detect and immediately respond to staff duress cases in every room. Often, there is not much time between the start of the problem and a full-scale assault; hence the need for a solution based on the real-time location that alerts concerned parties the moment a situation gets out of control. 

That’s where IoT-powered solutions leveraging RTLS (Real Time Location Systems) come into play. Healthcare facilities can now leverage the advances in real-time location tracking technology using wireless devices to create safe working environments and reduce and mitigate cases of staff duress.

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how technology provides relief when supporting shortages of medical staff

RTLS duress is a reliable wireless solution that provides immediate response to concerned parties during a threatening security emergency. It works using a simple IoT-enabled or “smart” badge that is connected to a wireless network that can be scaled to any size. 

The badge both acts as a locator, constantly emitting a signal that can be precisely tracked and located, as well as an emergency duress button that can send a call for help from anywhere within the covered range of the network. 

The badge-enabled location functionality means:

  • Every nurse can be located and accounted for at any time, including in emergency events like evacuations, fire alerts, etc. 
  • When a call for help is sent, room-level location accuracy means responders know exactly where the nurse is and not approximately, saving valuable search time in a situation where every second counts 

The badge’s duress button means:

  • Nurses are always a simple press of a button away from summoning the help they need in the event of an emergency
  • They are covered by a digital security blanket everywhere they go as long as it is covered as part of the wireless network

While digital staff duress solutions can never fully eliminate encounters with aggressive patients, they can give nurses and others the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are never truly cut off from the help they can call with the press of a button, no matter where they are in the hospital complex.

This does much to improve their overall comfort level and satisfaction with their work, which is an obvious prerequisite for staying in the profession.

Streamlined workflows remove frustration

Even in an imaginary hospital where the violent patient encounters never happened, nurses would still suffer from the frustrations caused by time wasted on tracking down needed equipment, inefficient workflows, and the feeling of never being able to devote enough time to their most important job of all — patient care. 

With so many devices under one roof — so many mission-critical devices — asset tracking should be a priority for every healthcare facility. However, despite the best of intentions, it typically ends up being one of those things that are always on the “to do” list. 

But when a nurse needs, say, a sanitized IV pump or a wheelchair, right now it can be a very irritating problem. The nurse has to drop everything and go manually searching for something while the patient waits (and waits). Meanwhile, the other demands are being made on the nurse and a chain reaction of frustration starts as one problem has to wait on another before anything can get solved. 

Meanwhile, the search for the wheelchair goes on. Nurses can spend more than an hour of a typical shift looking for something that IoT-based solutions can locate at the touch of a button

When assets are tagged, they are located just as the nurses themselves are located via their wearable smart badges. With the tag, they’re constantly sending out a silent signal that tells the network where they are. Check the system, and find the item. Done. 

staff shortage soulutions

This means an enormous amount of staff hours are saved on time spent searching, which means nurses can spend more time with patients, which means better patient outcomes. Win-win-win!

Even more time is saved by the automation of manual tasks via the wireless network. From patient check-in to insights made possible from a real-time, big-picture view of everything going on in the facility, nurses can regain time previously lost to simple repetitive tasks that no longer need their constant attention. 

That’s even more time for patient care or — let’s give them a break because they deserve it – a chance to catch their breath and slow down for a moment. 

But whether it’s the satisfaction of being able to devote more time to patients or simply the chance to dial down the stress of a busy day, IoT tech solutions create a more productive and, hopefully, rewarding experience for nurses

But that’s still not all. Keeping nurses safe from harm and giving them the tools they need to feel comfortable is important but there are also benefits for the institution as well. 

  • Fewer days lost to injury and illness

When nurses experience fewer confrontations with patients, they don’t have to take as much time off to deal with the physical and psychological effects of incidents that never happened. By deploying location-tracking technology, the vast majority of injuries will be reduced, thus saving hospitals the direct costs of lost productivity and the indirect costs of having to hire help temporarily to cover shifts. 

  • Improved patient outcomes

When assured of a safe working environment, healthcare employees will deliver higher-quality services to patients. Hospitals with an adequate staffing capacity are able to improve patient safety outcomes since nurses will be dedicated to delivering quality care instead of worrying about their safety when dealing with mentally distressed and frustrated patients. Hospitals with higher cases of employee injuries report higher turnover rates, which negatively impact patient outcomes.

  • Improved hospital reputation and patient safety

The safety of your healthcare employees is directly tied to the credibility of your healthcare institution. A hospital with increased staff duress cases is likely to have a bad reputation, especially among healthcare workers, which can impact the reputation and thus recruitment of the hospital. Deploying RTLS technology ensures that such cases are minimized as security staff and management teams get real-time information that can be used to mitigate staff duress cases.

  • The same network delivers asset tracking capabilities

The very same wireless infrastructure that supplies everything covered up until now also enables asset-tracking applications. This makes the work of nurses easier because they can locate needed objects - wheelchairs, IV equipment, pumps, etc. - much faster and avoid the frustration that comes with not being able to find what they need to get their jobs done. 

Delivering Kontakt.io Care as a Service to your Healthcare Facility 

At a time when the NHS is severely understaffed with nurses, there are accessible tech solutions that can help to improve their work conditions and lessen the stress that contributes to burnout and leaving the profession.

Empowering nurses with real-time security responses creates invaluable peace of mind, allowing them to better focus on patient care. Schedule a 20min call with our UK & US healthcare practice leaders to hear how we are already helping NHS and other healthcare facilities globally.

Schedule a discovery call here.

To learn more about how easy IoT solutions are to deploy and the benefits they bring to a healthcare environment, watch our on-demand webinars, where we talk about smart hospitals and how IoT-based systems are providing real-time data in order to achieve interoperability in your healthcare institution and enhance patient-first attitudes among a better-protect workforce.

You may also be interested in our article on Hospital color codes.

Aneta Ciurkot

Director, Product Marketing

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