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Understaffed and Overworked: Facility Strategies to Survive the Nursing Crisis

As the demand for nurses across the healthcare landscape continues to grow at the highest rate on record, and as the supply of qualified nurses far outstrips the demand, the United States moves closer and closer to a nursing crisis. As a result, the nurses who are working are becoming restless and burned out. What actions can hospitals and other healthcare facilities take to help alleviate this growing issue?

Nursing Crisis Causes

As the baby boomer generation continues to age, coupled with recent advances in healthcare and medicine allowing people to live longer, the corresponding demand for qualified healthcare professionals – especially nurses – has grown exponentially. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for registered nurses is expected to increase by 15% over the next six years, an annual growth rate that’s been increasing steadily over the last couple of decades. For licensed practical nurses, that rate is 12% and for nursing assistants it’s 11%.

Not only will the aging population need more medical attention, but those with careers in healthcare are also leaving their respective fields. MedCity News has reported that more than 500,000 registered nurses will retire by 2022.

Compounding the issue is that nursing schools are not growing quickly enough to meet the projected demand for nurses, and many are forced to limit the number of students they accept due to a shortage of faculty to teach them. There is also a shortage of hospitals and clinics available to provide necessary training.

The Toll on Nurses

For many nurses, long hours and trying workloads already take a toll. Dealing with a shortage adds excessive stress to nurses, which can impact job satisfaction and cause many to leave the profession entirely.

Last fall, 70,000 nurses across five states voted to strike if certain demands were not met, including earning better wages and improving nurse-to-patient ratios. The more patients nurses are asked to take care of, the harder it is to do their jobs overall, which can lead to an increase in the patient’s risk of injury, infections or even death. A 2017 study of ICU patients concluded that staffing ratios at the facility were directly associated with the patient’s chances of survival.  At facilities that had a high workload/staffing ratio, there was a substantial reduction in survival odds compared to well-staffed facilities.

The bottom line is not having enough staff is unfair to nurses and to the patients they treat. If not addressed, staffing challenges will only continue to worsen in the long run.

So, what’s the solution? Obviously, there isn’t a quick and easy fix, but here are some critical components that can improve the situation.

Better Pay, Better Flexibility for Nurses

Nurses leave the profession because they are overworked and underpaid. Therefore the most obvious solution for hospitals and other healthcare facilities is to ensure that both these needs are satisfied.

If facilities are understaffing as a cost-saving strategy, consider the repercussions of not meeting staffing regulations, if patient care suffers or if you end up losing good employees to burnout. Proactively staffing your facility can stop negative and costly consequences before they happen. If, like all facilities, your busiest times and patient loads tends to fluctuate by season, by day or even by shift, it can be incredibly challenging and expensive to retain on-premise staff at all times to meet high demands. A much more cost-effective solution is to use a staffing agency to gain access to nurses and other healthcare professionals ready to pick up shifts when you need them filled. This way you’re able to employ the team you need day-to-day, but you always have resources available to maintain good staffing ratios and reduce employee stress.

More nurses and other healthcare professionals turn to staffing agencies for not only the flexibility and control over when and where they work, but also because staffing agencies tend to offer better rates. Having the ability to choose their commitments – on a permanent, weekly or even on a daily basis – can help nurses regulate their schedule and reduce the risk of burnout. And if they choose to take on more, they can quickly and easily find work.

To get started solving your facility’s staffing challenges, register with All American today.