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Communications Technology: The Key to Curbing Staff Shortages

October 5, 2020 By Charles Larsen
  • Charles Larsen
  • October 5, 2020

This blog is Part 4 of five in a series taking a deeper dive into today’s nursing shortage crisis.

It’s a challenge many industries face today: staffing shortages and a lack of candidates. But it’s especially critical in healthcare because of its domino effect on the American workforce. People can’t work if they don’t have access to medical care when they need it, and for medical facilities, access begins with adequate staffing.

Take hospitals in particular. These facilities are in desperate need of nurses and other hands-on caregivers to provide care at the bedside. Hospitals can’t open beds if there are no nurses to staff them, meaning some are forced to shut down emergency rooms and turn away patients. In such cases, staffing deficiencies can literally mean life or death.

Historically, the turnover in nursing has long trended below the hospital average. Then came the pandemic, and higher patient ratios, elevated occupancy rates, and negative patient outcomes followed. Nurses worked to the point of emotional and physical exhaustion, and in 2021, they exited the bedside at an alarming rate. Countless thousands left for better paying jobs with more perks and less exposure to Covid-19.

Watch Now: Four Key Strategies for Utilizing Technology to Bridge the Nursing Staffing Shortage Today

What’s more, one million RNs are expected to retire by 2030. But the problem doesn’t stop there. For some time now, nursing schools have lacked ample faculty and facilities to graduate enough students to fill projected openings. Add in lucrative travel options and fierce competition for candidates and it’s easy to understand why 81% of hospitals report a nursing vacancy rate above 10 percent. And as vacancies go unfilled, the staffing crisis simply multiplies.

There’s another reason for hospitals to fear the year 2030, too. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that by 2030, the entire baby-boom generation, some 73 million people, will be 65 or older. Many of this generation will require varying degrees of ongoing care, and much of that will be at the bedside. But these trends aren’t new. The pandemic simply underscored the dynamics of a fluid workforce — one whose charge is continually in flux.

Studies have shown that nurses may already spend less than two hours of a 12-hour shift on direct patient care. Think about that. It’s less than 20% of their day. Why? Because nurses are constantly called on to adapt to new patient demands, new regulations, and new treatments. Even simple yet repetitive tasks routinely prevent them from focusing on top quality care.

So, give them more tools, right? Well, nurses already have tools to work smarter. What they need are tools that address their well-being. The right technology can help them feel more confident in care decisions, more connected to other members of the care team, and less stressed. In fact, technology designed to streamline communication can help surmount staffing shortages and eliminate task redundancy common that can lead to burnout.

Communication is a fundamental element of the human experience, so it makes sense that it impacts a nurse’s job satisfaction. Keeping people healthy is also a highly complex job – one that requires a team focused on communicating clearly and quickly. However, The Joint Commission reports that 80% of all medical mistakes are linked to communication failures. The health of a patient, then, clearly depends on fast, seamless, and private information sharing.

Cloud-based platforms such Contact Center as a Service, or CCaaS, can bring patient support to entirely new level. CCaaS is an interoperable solution that easily integrates with existing platforms to efficiently share data and streamline patient support. It also instantly syncs conversations across channels and offers real-time notifications, meaning that providers can seamlessly collaborate across geographies and time zones. That includes providing the security and infrastructure to assure that essential communications are available 24×7.

Moreover, CCaaS helps lessen and eliminate dependence on outdated telecom, productivity and reporting tools. For example, by automating the tedious elements of communication and documentation, nurses can spend more quality time performing the care-related responsibilities for which they are uniquely trained. That means empowering them to work at the top of their license and improve time at bedside.

CCaaS also preserves the flow of knowledge by linking devices and essential applications. But most importantly, it identifies the best communication practices to hardwire across the healthcare system and eliminate inefficient workflows. The upshot? Nurse-patient face time is increased, making for an enhanced patient experience, improved clinical outcomes and best of all, more gratified nurses.

Yet one of the most important aspects of interoperability is that it can help combat burnout by making it easy for providers to find important information. This gives nurses peace of mind that patients are safe and satisfied, and keeps them engaged and on the job. When each of these elements work in concert, patients feel heard and cared for in an environment designed specifically to promote healing.

So what’s the best way to successfully integrate communication technology? First, make it an essential part of the strategic planning process. Second, envision the needs of future workforces dedicated to patient care, one where nurses are encouraged to thrive. Finally, align hospital resources and activities to make collaboration toward a common goal possible. It all nets out to one basic principle: the better the communication, the better the coordination of care.

Read More about the nursing shortage and its impact on patient transfer in our eBook, Transforming the Transfer and Referral Process and Why Efficient Communications Benefit Both Patients and Providers.

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