Two recent reports on the state of nursing in America have once again put the spotlight on one of the most difficult issues the healthcare industry faces today.
The recruitment and retention of nursing staff continues to be a mission-critical issue that has yet to be addressed in a way that yields results. Even now, in the post-pandemic landscape when we may expect some of the pressures and additional stresses may be relieved a bit and a gradual return to normalcy, the numbers tell a story of all the most important metrics moving in the wrong direction.
To handle the expected growth in this industry, healthcare providers must first secure the necessary staffing. Until now, contract hiring, overtime, travel staff and other stop-gap measures have been used to fill the gap but the costs are proving to be prohibitive.
Nurse burnout is a problem that requires innovative solutions that address aspects of the workplace that alleviate some of the stress that drives too many nurses to exit the career—solutions that are available now.
Table of contents
First up is the NSI Nursing Solutions 2023 National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report. NSI, a staffing and recruitment firm in the healthcare space, starts by correctly praising the many recent advances in the nursing profession and opportunities for professional growth before noting the irony of its number-one problem: high vacancy rates in a high-paying job field.
The report, covering 273 hospitals from 35 US states, notes a nationwide vacancy rate of just under 16%. That’s one in six positions going unfilled. More than three-quarters of all healthcare facilities reported a vacancy rate over ten percent.
Nurse turnover rates, currently at an average of 22.7%, are just as worrying. In the past 5 years, the average hospital turned over 105% of its workforce.
When asked for the reasons for their departure, issues beyond the control of the facility like retirement, relocation and personal reasons are near the top but other issues like workload, job satisfaction, and staffing ratios figure prominently.
Next up, and equally full of concerning statistics, is AMN Healthcare’s 2023 Survey of Registered Nurses - The Pandemic’s Consequences. It contains the results of more than 18,000 nurses to a survey that asked about their job satisfaction, mental health and wellbeing and other aspects of the effects of their workplace.
The first numbers discussed are also the most striking—after about a decade of remaining at around 80-85%, career satisfaction among nurses has dropped 10 percentage points from 2021. Their satisfaction with the quality of care they provided has declined 12 points. Feeling “emotionally drained” has risen 15 points. Worry that their job is affecting their health has increased by 19 points and the percentage of nurses likely to encourage others to become a nurse has dropped 14 points.
Especially concerning is the response of younger nurses in the survey, which were much more negative than their more experienced counterparts when questioned about satisfaction, mental health and wellbeing.
Other insights from the AMN report include:
Both reports correctly summarize everything listed here as a leading indicator of present and future pressure working against organizational goals. The Great Resignation that hit the corporate world in the wake of the pandemic has impacted healthcare too.
“The movement of nurses away from hospital employment may be the most damaging healthcare workplace impact of the pandemic,” AMN report states.
The problem is real and obvious even at a glance. Reversing trends in recruitment and retention for nurses and fundamentally changing their experience in the workplace is a must. This means creating environments where nurses feel physically and emotionally secure and supported by their employers with innovative solutions that reduce the tensions that make nursing a challenging vocation under the best of circumstances.
There is another aspect of this problem that is not addressed in detail in the two reports — the fact that nursing is among the dangerous occupations in America.
Dealing with volatile patients (and sometimes volatile patient family members), threats, emotionally charged situations, physical assaults, and generally unpleasant confrontations has unfortunately become part of the job for too many nurses.
This adds another layer of stress and, worse, an element of physical danger to an already emotionally demanding job.
Even though healthcare facilities use multiple layers of security, including video surveillance, emergency call stations, and other elements, it is still not enough to provide complete protection, particularly for staff members who find themselves in isolated areas.
Security guards have their place and will always be part of a comprehensive security posture but they can’t be everywhere at all times and significantly increasing their numbers brings great costs without accompanying increases in productivity.
And even if a facility’s budget allows for it, no one wants their care atmosphere to be defined by the presence of large numbers of security guards.
In AMN’s report, we learn that 86% of nurses believe that creating a safer working environment is one of the top ways that their employers could reduce their stress.
That’s near-unanimous support for a frequently overlooked opportunity to transform the care delivery and operations, making the hospital environment safer and more responsive to staff needs.
Digital transformation in healthcare, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) is an important part of the solution to nurse staffing.
New technology has created simple, reliable, and affordable solutions that use highly accurate location tracking capabilities and Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) connectivity to extend a virtual security network anywhere your staff goes. Even when they’re physically separated from help in a remote part of a facility or working alone with a patient, their location is constantly monitored and they can easily be found with room-level accuracy with the touch of a button on a wearable badge.
But the real value of this network, in terms of safety, is the staff’s ability to use it to call for help from wherever they are – even when beyond earshot of other employees and isolated. Connected badges with emergency buttons can be comfortably worn and serve as a live 24/7 call button any time help is needed.
While digital staff duress solutions can never fully eliminate encounters with aggressive patients, it can give nurses and others the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are never truly cut off from help they can call with the press of a button, no matter where they are in the hospital complex.
Improved safety conditions mean a better employee experience, which means greater job satisfaction and employees who can focus on delivering better care, which itself results in better patient outcomes. It’s a virtuous chain with measurable benefits at every step but it all has to start with employees feeling that they are spending their day in a secure environment that helps them deal with threats in the best way possible.
Improving safety in healthcare facilities is easier than ever before, and Kontakt.io’s cloud-based, AI-enabled platform, paired with wireless smart badge holders, create a complete solution that solves for security in hospitals.
The benefits of nurse duress solutionss, as part of Kontakt.io’s Inpatient Journey Analytics platform, start with an increased sense of safety for nurses and other staff but don’t end there:
With nearly half of all nurses still reporting being physically assaulted on the job and still facing a risk of assault that is five times greater than the average worker, it’s clear that nursing remains a challenging profession. The physical and mental consequences of this result in lost productivity, lower staff morale, more sick leave taken, more worker’s compensation claims, and a general but understandable reduction in the motivation that nurses need to accomplish a very demanding job.
This leads to more nurse turnover and increased recruitment and training costs for healthcare facilities. Investing in staff duress solutions can greatly reduce these costs while dramatically improving work conditions for nurses and other staff.
Staff Safety as a Service from Kontakt.io provides real-time visibility into nurses’ locations and statuses, no matter where they are in a facility. It can provide a digital security blanket that covers nurses at all times and places. Help is always a press of a button away and that button is always with them, ready to call for backup that will know exactly where to go immediately.
How smart hospital solutions are delivering better clinical outcomes, greater efficiencies, and higher patient satisfaction through digital transformation using technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
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