Overworked and Exhausted: How to Alleviate Nursing Resources Through Employee Engagement and Recognition

(Becker’s Hospital Review) The registered nursing workforce is the top occupation in terms of job growth through 2020, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses. By then the number of employed nurses needed will grow to 3.45 million, a 26 percent increase within the decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is great news for job opportunities, but with an already large shortage of resources and increased demand, will many nurses “check-out” of the hospital if all of these slots aren’t progressively filled?

Presently, it comes as no surprise and is no secret that nurses are overworked, heightening concern for systems that are moving towards pay for performance and results-driven reimbursement. Patient satisfaction, reportable quality indicators and reducing readmissions are top priorities for hospital and healthcare organizations. These priorities, coupled with more acutely ill patients, make the task of delivering quality care harder for nurses to achieve — let alone achieve upon exhaustion.  

Nurses take the profession seriously and have a high level of skills that serve as a requirement to delivering exceptional care. Conducting over 100 tasks per shift and being interrupted every three minutes, the reality of being a nurse in today’s healthcare delivery system seems overwhelming and sometimes impossible. Emotional exhaustion, physical injuries due to the demands of the job and post-traumatic stress disorder are common ailments our nurses are facing.

Sleep deprivation due to extended work hours and circadian disruption is the Achilles heel of the medical profession. Fatigue increases the risk of adverse events, compromises patient safety, and increases risk to personal safety and well-being. In addition, one out of every five emergency department nurse meets the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, which can clearly be brought on by continual exhaustion. Imagine if one-fifth of your hospital or healthcare organization’s nursing staff, including ED nurses, suffered from exhaustion and PTSD. This not only impacts your hospital staff’s happiness and performance, but quality care and the patient experience.

Healthcare has evolved to an environment of increasing complexity. In some cases, this complexity has resulted in adverse events from unintentional human error, such as receiving the wrong type or dose of medication or being identified as the wrong patient. In some organizations, nurses are working extended hours due to staffing shortages and have little time for breaks and time at the bedside where it matters most, which can lead to a higher margin of error.

So what are some solutions healthcare organizations with already too few resources can do to improve nursing satisfaction and free up nursing staff?

Through employee engagement and recognition, hospital and systems can increase the morale of their staff as well as decrease turn-over, which yields a happier, healthier staff. With a happy and engaged nursing staff, the results will show a direct correlation with increased patient satisfaction, which keeps the hospital in the clear when it comes to satisfaction survey reimbursement penalties from CMS. It also instills trust and loyalty in the patients they serve.

An increasing number of hospitals are also integrating post-discharge calling as part of the care continuum following a patient’s stay to manage disease and reduce readmissions, another task often assigned to the unit nurses to complete between patient encounters. A trending solution is to outsource post-discharge follow-up calls and offload some of the multiple responsibilities some systems ask their nursing staff to perform. For example, nurses are used in many ways aside from care delivery at the bedside by providing virtual triage services, allowing patients to call a nurse to provide medical advice.

Emerging data reveals the evidence-based best practice of outsourcing post-discharge calls has proven to increase patient satisfaction, reduce readmissions and improve medication compliance and aid in navigating patients to the next stage of the care continuum.

In order to get nurses back to the bedside to deliver exceptional experiences, taking some of these responsibilities off their plates is key. This not only alleviates stress, but also ensures nurses are satisfied with their job by getting back to the role they have sworn to play set forth by Florence Nightingale — devoting themselves to the welfare of those committed to their care.

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