Reducing nursing turnover rates with help of current technologies

How automating patient education and non-clinical tasks can help healthcare organizations lessen the burden on nurses.

As a young, energetic patient educator in the 1990s, I spent 70 percent of my day tracking down educational content to help patients and their families get the tools they needed to prepare for discharge. That meant finding the TV cart and the correct VCR tape or creating a new patient education handout and moving it through the required approval process. The process was slow and cumbersome for both patients and staff.

I learned early on that to improve the patient’s experience, we had to also improve the nurse’s experience. I think about this a lot today when the need to relieve nurses of administrative burden seems more critical than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many registered nurses out of healthcare, and the shortage means hospitals are facing between $3.6 million and $6.5 million per year in turnover costs, according to several industry estimates.

Solving the nursing crisis is the responsibility of all of us in healthcare. The time to act is now, and the technology to make an impact is here.

To support nurses, organizations should consider adopting innovative technologies that automate clinical workflows, remove repetitive and redundant administrative tasks and enable nurses to connect at a more personal level with patients.

For example, applying automation to patient education programs enables nurses to devote more time to assessing and augmenting patients’ learning. And adopting new communications systems helps ease the administrative burden on nurses.

Effective patient education

The Healthcare Education Association’s Patient Education Practice Guidelines state that effective patient education must meet each of the four components of the patient education process: assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation. The challenge is that nurses do not commonly have the time required to ensure that all four stages of the process are met.

Leveraging education technology that integrates with an electronic health records system can streamline the assignment and documentation of patient education, placing less of the administrative burden on nurses.

Using new patient education technology, the EHR’s education-required teaching points can be mapped to specific education programs. The EHR has the patient’s correct diagnosis, which permits the mapping of specific education to that individual’s diagnosis and stage.

For the nurse, delivering patient education seamlessly, automating documentation of completion and pushing out comprehension questions for follow-up can all contribute to significant gains in clinical efficiency.

Personalized content

When educational content is personalized to meet an individual’s needs, patients are more engaged in their care and more satisfied with their experience. One way to ensure this is by acknowledging the correct stage of care.

For example, if a patient has a history of heart failure and they were recently readmitted because of heart failure, providing educational content on “an introduction to heart failure” likely will not be effective in helping them understand their current situation. In this example, the patient may perceive that the care team is uninformed of their medical history or unaware of the reason they have returned to the hospital.

Using the latest education technology, a sample workflow would be:   

  • Nurses assign tailored education through the EHR, and assignments appear for the patient and/or loved ones via their in-room TV or a personal device. This includes reminders that the education has been assigned specifically for them.  
  • Completion is automatically documented back in the EHR, and content that has not been watched is identified through reporting and follow-up.
  • Comprehension questions are used to evaluate the patient’s understanding. When the patient answers a question incorrectly or indicates they have questions, a notice is sent to the nurse requesting follow up.

Educational content provided via automation can be tailored to address literacy challenges, language and culture needs. By using the technology, the patient education is consistent; the healthcare team has selected the content, and it’s not subject to the interpretation of one nurse or one member of the care team. The result: nurses spend more time at the bedside with their patients.

‍While patient education is mandatory, it’s critical to ensure that the delivery of the content truly brings value to the individuals receiving it. Putting the right information in front of a patient and/or their loved ones at the right time can make a world of difference, and it can have a significant impact on their health outcomes.

Other useful tools

In addition to automating patient education, automating certain administrative tasks can reduce paperwork, interruptions and manual processes, all of which put stress on nursing staff and drain the profession of joy and fulfillment.

The process is simple: leverage information from any EHR and integrate it with patient-facing solutions to create a non-clinical self-service environment for patients and families, all while enabling nurses to focus on care priorities.
‍The nurse call bell, in theory, is necessary because it offers patients a way to easily get the help they need. But what if the patient doesn’t require clinical help? What if the patient simply has a question, wants a beverage or needs a blanket?

These types of non-clinical requests consume a nurse’s day and contribute to nurse fatigue. Beyond that, some patients may be hesitant to seek those comforts out of fear of disturbing the nurses, which may impact their overall hospital experience.

It’s time to think beyond the call bell. Today’s communication systems allow for instant, seamless communication, as well as triaging of notifications to proper departments, not just nursing. Giving patients a menu of available options will put them at ease, enable self-service and significantly decrease the interruptions nurses experience throughout their day.

For example, a large health system in Florida provides patients with a menu of services from which patients can choose throughout their stay. This menu includes 27 distinct services from nine departments throughout the hospital.

By thinking beyond the traditional call bell and leveraging interactive in-room systems, hospitals can save nurses steps and give them more time to practice clinical care.

Automating standard practices

In a world where patient information is digitized, there’s no need for dry erase boards, handwritten charts or cryptic magnet or paper signage systems outside patients’ hospital rooms.

The EHR contains endless amounts of data, critical health information that is up-to-the-minute, reliable and standardized. Instead of requiring nurses to replicate information manually onto dry erase boards, the process can be automated. A simple integration with the EHR means accurate data can be displayed anywhere, any time on any device – without nurses having to manually update it.

Documenting rounds also can be a cumbersome task. But capturing RTLS (real-time locating systems) information in a “smart” patient room removes that task. Each entry into a patient room can be automatically logged, and nursing staff can electronically document other rounding details that update on each device.  

Outside the patient room, integrated technologies can automatically update door displays to show patient precautions (e.g., allergies, fall risk, etc.), rather than placing the burden on nurses to replicate information to yet another board. Digital door signs and digital whiteboards not only save time and create efficiency; they also standardize processes for clinicians to ensure safety and high reliability across an organization.

Creating a supportive environment

‍Ultimately, nurse retention isn’t just about tools and technologies. It’s about how those tools and technologies – along with a positive work environment and culture – work together to contribute to nurse satisfaction.

The patient environment is a significant part of that. Patient experience and nurse experience are intrinsically tied.

Creating a supportive environment in which technology reduces complexity and helps improve patient outcomes also creates an environment where nurses feel that their clinical efforts matter.

Heather Wood is vice president of clinical innovation for Vibe Health by eVideon

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