Nurses Are Already Resilient: What Hospitals Can Do to Help

by | Jul 25, 2018

nurse-collaborative-hospital-team-coordinationDoes your healthcare facility know FRED? Chances are, there’s a FRED in many hospital and long-term care facilities. In a Nursing Executive Center (NEC) report, one frontline nurse described the nursing model of American hospital as:

Frantically Running Every Day

How do you recognize FRED In your own facility? Here are a few clues:

  • Ringing ears from constant pages and alarms
  • Jittery hands from redial syndrome
  • Grumbling tummy after a too-quick lunch
  • Holes in knees of scrubs from praying for full staff coverage
  • Worn tread on shoes from hospital laps

Why FRED isn’t funny: The high costs of a weary workforce

Those little annoyances caused by FRED can become so commonplace that staff takes them for granted, as if they were a normal and expected part of the workflow. While that level of dedication Is admirable, it comes with some dismaying costs.

Nursing fatigue and burnout

The NEC report cited several studies confirming what many nursing leaders know: nurses are often running on fumes. Three out of four reported concern about overwork, nearly half said they were tired all the time, and 70 percent said they felt burned out.

Reduced productivity

Pushing staff to the edge of endurance eventually becomes counterproductive. Researchers have found a link between nurse burnout and an increased rate of hospital-acquired infections. The study found the strongest link between nurse burnout and urinary tract infections, which cost on average $768 per patient to treat. A higher cost comes from nurse absenteeism, which costs healthcare organizations $1,685 per employee per year.

Nursing turnover and staffing shortages

Nearly half of all nurses say they have considered leaving the profession. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 1.2 million registered nurse (RN) vacancies by 2022, reducing staff turnover must be a priority. The financial impact of those vacancies is high: according to the NEC report, the average hospital faces a $90,000 cost from the departure of one RN. The report calculated a $6.6 million average total cost of RN turnover at hospitals.

How healthcare organizations can support a resilient workforce

I think one of the most important takeaways from the NEC report is that nurses are already resilient. Both CNOs and frontline nurses observed that nurses provide a strong foundation for the entire healthcare team while also acting as a critical source of support for patients and families at their most vulnerable. The task for healthcare leadership is not to make nurses more resilient, but to invest in and create an environment in which nurses have the time and tools to do their work professionally, at a high standard, with less stress. The NEC has identified four ways in which healthcare organizations can help build that environment:

  • Reducing concerns about safety due to threats and violence in the workplace
  • Addressing perceptions of inadequate or unsafe staffing levels
  • Providing time to recover from stressful events
  • Preventing isolation caused by lack of connections among staff members

The role of healthcare communication technology in creating an environment for resilience

Each of the problem areas identified by the NEC can be ameliorated by a healthcare communication solution. In later blogs, I’ll review how enhanced healthcare communication technology can address safety, staffing and isolation, to help build the type of work environment that allows nurses to keep nursing. Even in areas not directly managed through communication, however, technology can play an important role. Nurses may experience a variety of traumatic events in the course of their regular workload, such as treating patients who are victims of violence or the death of a very young patient. Many nurse leaders have developed strategies to allow nurses to recover, including time in a quiet room, storytelling sessions, or relaxation training. While helpful, each of these tactics requires time to implement. A clinical communication and collaboration solution such as LiveProcess can help create that time, so that nurses are able to take advantage of existing resilience tools. Possibilities include:

Streamlining administrative tasks: The structured communication enabled by LiveProcess, such as pre-set contact groups, templated messages, and one-touch responses, make communication faster and reduce the need for repeat calls and messages.

Minimizing wasted searches: Tracking down clinicians, housekeeping, or needed resources and supplies is an unnecessary burden on nurses’ time and physical energy. Because LiveProcess allows nurses to use the most convenient communication device at the moment, whether a cell phone, pager, or mobile workstation, these types of notifications can be issued from wherever a nurse is in the hospital, with minimal disruption to patient care.

Reducing paperwork: Using structured messaging and documentation functions like those in LiveProcess can automate some required recordkeeping. As an added benefit, nurse leaders have access to event logs for insight into shift coverage, response times and other hospital operations needs.

Saying goodbye to FRED

Healthcare facilities can be inherently stressful environments. As sites of grief, loss, fear, and urgency, hospitals and other facilities sometimes show people at their worst. Nevertheless, as one CNO reported to the NEC, “I see nurses’ resilience every day. They negotiate the demands of the job and deal with the high stress, but still walk into patients’ rooms with a smile.”

While healthcare leadership cannot change the kinds of stresses nurses and other care providers face, they can implement technology to give their staff the tools they need to prevent Frantically Running Every Day and build an environment that supports their dedication and resilience.

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Next steps

Read more blog posts in this series on building nursing resilience and reducing nurse burnout:

Read more blog posts about improving healthcare team communication for real-time healthcare.

Learn about LiveProcess Communicator, our healthcare team collaboration tool.

An abbreviated version of this blog originally appeared in Health Management Technology.

Reference

  1. The Advisory Board, Nursing Executive Center, “Rebuild the Foundation for a Resilient Workforce,” 2018.
terry-zysk-100x100Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, has more than two decades of experience in leading organizations that provide innovative solutions to the healthcare industry.