Can technology help stem the tide of nurse turnover?
Panelists at HLTH say the pandemic and rising documentation loads have disillusioned nurses, and IT must support them and extend their capabilities.
Statistics on nurse turnover is sobering, and information technology must answer the call to stem the tide of the shrinking provider workforce, and augment and extend care teams in place.
Current data suggest that the U.S. healthcare industry may have 200,000 to 450,000 nursing vacancies by 2025, but those estimates may be understated because of disillusionment with the profession, noted panelists at HLTH in Las Vegas on Sunday, November 13.
Trauma related to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in 100,000 nurses leaving the workforce in 2021, and this year, annual turnover stands at 27 percent, said Bonnie Clipper, moderator of the panel and managing director of Innovation Advantage, a consultancy specializing in nursing issues. Younger nurses are becoming disillusioned with caregiving workloads, and 57 percent of new nurses leave the profession after two years.
Nurses leaving in droves
“There’s an exodus out of healthcare that no one talks about,” said Rebecca Love, chief clinical officer of IntelyCare, which provides technology that matches nurses wanting to work with providers seeking nurse services. “One in three bedside nurses plan to exit (the profession soon). The irony is that there have never been more nurses in the U.S. than there are today. What we have is a shortage of nurses willing to work in the healthcare system today.”
The outflow results in less experienced nurses taking care of sicker patients, and that raises the risk of treatment errors that impact patient safety. Digital records systems have yet to alleviate the burden, and often are cited as contributing factors to clinician burnout and turnover rates.
“The fact is that we can’t ask nurses to do one more thing, especially when it comes to the electronic medical record,” said Michael Golebiowski, corporate vice president of strategy and innovations for Braun Medical. “They don’t have a good work-life balance right now.”
Documentation loads have increased based on requirements from external organizations, such as payers and the Joint Commission, contends Hiyam Nadal, director of the Center for Innovations in Care Delivery, an incubator at Massachusetts General Hospital. During the panel discussion, she contrasted what she previously had to document for incoming patients a few years ago, then unrolled a lengthy scroll listing all current information requirements for patients. “And it all has to be done within the bounds of a 15-minute visit; no wonder mistakes occur.”
Nurses’ responsibility to provide hands-on care is crucial in modern healthcare delivery and in consumers’ perceptions of the care they are receiving, Nadal emphasized. “The last time you had an interaction with the health system, most of you would say it wasn’t great. When things get in the way, it really fractures that relationship. And as a nurse, if I don’t have that patient relationship anymore, there’s no reason for me to stay. We have to bring that relationship back.”
Technology must help
Nurses need more input into technology solutions, Nadal said; her incubator harvests suggestions from nurses and aims to find technological solutions. “So many solutions have never been put in front of nurses or received their input on those solutions. Could we leverage that to make nurses better?”
The matching capabilities of IntelyCare has helped match 50,000 nurses in 29 states with providers, often enabling nurses who are no longer working full-time to be matched with provider organizations needing nursing services. This gives providers an option toward expensive 90-day contracts with temporary nurses, a typical route to filling vacancies.
Will Patterson, founder and CEO of CareRev, highlighted his company’s role in using technology to connect 1,000 nurses with the SSM integrated healthcare system in St. Louis. “If we’re going to have this type of workforce, we have to have technology and do it in a smarter manner. With a part-time workforce, we have to build a new workforce management system.”
And it’s not just shortages of nurses. Providers lack schedulers to manage allocation of hours, and the pandemic has shredded capacity in areas such as respiratory therapists, physicians and more, Nadal noted.
“We’ve never seen a point like this in history,” Patterson said. “Humans often need a catastrophe to change. There are innovations with onboarding and app use on phones. We’re watching healthcare systems that are absolutely going to change, and we’re now moving at a super sped up cycle.”