5 Healthcare Organizations Launch Nurse Staffing Think Tank To Tackle Unsafe Staffing
The nursing shortage has been an ongoing hot topic since before COVID but has only gotten drastically worse in the last several months. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the employment of nurses is expected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030 with an expected 194,500 open positions each year. This number doesn’t consider the mass exodus of nurses over the last several months. The Nurse Staffing Task Force was developed to help tackle this problem.
"Healthcare is a human business. Hospitals can add all the rooms, beds and equipment they want, but none of that matters without nurses there to take care of sick patients," said AACN President Beth Wathen, MSN, RN, CCRN-K. "For years, usual and accepted staffing models have viewed nursing as an expense, not an investment. And yet, there is ample evidence that links appropriate nurse staffing with optimized nursing care and improved patient outcomes."
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Key reasons for the nursing shortage prior to COVID included,
- Aging workforce
- Nurse burnout
- Violence toward nurses
Hospitals, local and state governments and even nurses have worked to overcome the nursing shortage. At first, travel nurses were the answer. Unfortunately, in recent weeks travel nursing contracts and pay rates have been drastically cut. Healthcare systems instead are focused on filling permanent staff positions rather than relying on short-term solutions. Travel nurses are a great solution but temporary at best.
The Nurse Staffing Think Tank is a group of front-line nurses, nursing leaders, and other key leaders including CFOs, CEOs, and HR representatives. Launched by Partners for Nurse Staffing, the think tank was a collaboration between the,
- American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
- American Nurses Association (ANA)
- American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL)
- Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA)
- Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)
Between January and March 2022 the team met six times, to help identify the causes of nursing shortages, understand nurses' concerns and study the feasibility of various strategies.
The main objectives of the collaboration according to the report were,
- Elevate awareness of the evidence-based link between appropriate nurse staffing and optimal patient care, as well as links to better patient experience, a thriving nurse workforce, and optimizing the value of care.
- Identify and promote examples of staffing successes.
- Incubate bold innovations and transformative approaches
"The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on the value of nurses, and the nursing workforce," said ANA Director of Nursing Programs Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC. "At the same time, it has accelerated a persistent staffing shortage that has plagued the profession for decades toward a crisis. Without swift and sufficient action, the nation's nurses, patients, and communities will continue to suffer."
The group determined six priority areas and coinciding strategies hospital and health system leaders should focus on to address the ongoing nursing shortage and workforce challenges:
- Healthy work environment
- Elevate clinician psychological and physical safety to equal importance with patient safety through federal regulation.
- Specialty nursing organizations should investigate evidence related to scope of practice and minimum safe staffing levels for patients in their specialty.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Implement Inclusive Excellence, a change-focused iterative planning process whereby there is deliberate integration of DEI ideals into leadership practices, daily operations, strategic planning, decision-making, resource allocation and priorities.
- Work schedule flexibility
- Build a flexible workforce with flexible scheduling, flexible shirts and flexible roles.
- Stress injury continuum
- Address burnout, moral distress, and compassion fatigue as barriers to nurse retention.
- Incorporate the well-being of nurses as an organizational value.
- Innovative care delivery models
- Implement tribrid care delivery models that offer a holistic approach with three components, including onsite care delivery, IT integration of patient monitoring equipment, and ambulatory access and virtual/remote care delivery. This approach will improve access, patient and staff experience, and resource management, with continuous measurement for improvement and adjustment for sustainability and support
- Total compensation
- Develop an organization-wide formalized and customizable total compensation program for nurses that is stratified based on market intelligence, generational needs and an innovative and transparent pay philosophy that is inclusive of benefits such as paid time off for self-care and wellness and wealth planning for all generations.
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The goal of these six priority areas is to address the overall nursing shortage and help alleviate some of the stress on nurses and hospitals with an anticipated impact in 12 to 18 months. Each of the priority areas has actionable recommendations that can help meet the goals and desired outcomes.
"Addressing workforce challenges is the top priority in health care. We can't provide health care and services to our communities without our workforce," said AONL CEO Robyn Begley, DNP, RN, NEA-BC. "Bringing together those who deliver care and those who ensure sustainability of care delivery is critical to developing outcomes-based staffing models, improving value and fostering a healthy practice environment to engage nurses and support resilience and well-being.
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