The past 2 years have seen a dramatic shift from nurses leaving bedside and venturing to other areas of employment, leaving hospitals with a critical nursing shortage. COVID-19 has placed “the last straw in the camel’s back” for many nurses as they are exhausted and pondering their future. They might stay in a nursing role, taking on a medical device sales position or decide to leave the profession all together. This is very upsetting. As a nurse myself, I understand how much dedication it takes, along with the education required to be a Registered Nurse. They are leaving bedside care due to burnout and the time to intervene is now! Becker’s Hospital Review reported, from a 2021 poll survey of 10,788 nurses, that 1 in 5 responding were “very burned out” or “burned out”.
To fully understand the nursing shortage issue, we must first look at why they are leaving. Nursing is very physically and mentally demanding and a typical shift is 12 hours. Granted, this consists of working a 3-day work week instead of the standard 5 day/8 hours, but as I tell my friends, you must be on your A-game the entire 12 hours. Medication errors are a huge issue within the medical profession and studies show these tend to occur when nurses are working past 8 hours and fatigued. Constantly being short-handed in the hospital is the standard. This occurred prior to COVID and now has just snowballed into a catastrophic level. The lack of enough staff, not only nurses, but nursing assistants and ancillary personnel, to properly care for all the patients, is a major reason for the nursing shortage.
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Supply Chain is also coming into play in the nursing shortage as there should never be a shortage of PPE in the hospital setting. I can only imagine the frustration the nurses are experiencing when there aren’t any N95 mask and they are needing to use a surgical mask or even worse, nothing at all! While I worked in the ER, I encountered a +TB (Tuberculosis) patient about once or twice a month, and to treat this patient safely, requires an N95 mask.
We need to embrace all the staff working within the hospital walls and provide for a better working atmosphere. Some ways could be:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): By utilizing AI to assist with care, robots can deliver non-medical products, providing some relief to over-worked staff members.
- Paid Time Off (PTO): Acknowledging hard work by offering a day of PTO to re-energize instead of a pizza party, would go a long way. I never was able to breakaway for a slice of pizza as we were always short-staffed, so PTO would be a great incentive.
- Flex Scheduling: Providing flex scheduling for staff would be beneficial as some do not have the bandwidth to stand on their feet for 12 hours and by allowing for an 8-hour shift would serve a better purpose.
- Supply Chain: Addressing the supply chain shortages and leveraging a data dashboard can provide real-time updates and allow for automatic ordering when stock is low. It is so frustrating to look for a product that is out of stock and it happens when you need it the most!
These are some simple ways to help the industry with our nursing shortage. The current state of healthcare is doing more with less; let’s change this belief!
What do you think? How do you think we can improve the nursing shortage situation?