If There Aren’t Enough Nurses, What Do You Do?

By Cindy Gaines, RN, MSN, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, Lumeon

As a registered nurse, I genuinely understand the American Nurses Association (ANA) wanting the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the nurse staffing shortage a national crisis. After almost two years of the coronavirus pandemic, many nurses have retired or left the profession entirely. Most of those who are still practicing are tired, burnt-out, and being stretched thin to provide high-quality of care under very difficult circumstances. While discussions of new policies, regulations and payments continue, short-term practical steps need to be taken to address the current crisis.

During my trips to the OR Leadership Summit in September and the OR Manager Conference last month, I was struck by how many organizations were struggling with staffing and efficiency issues. Finding ways to help their care teams reduce the burden of manual and redundant administrative tasks, while supporting their nurses to work at the top-of-license was high on the agenda.

Nearly everyone we spoke to was focused on short-term goals to create efficiencies for their teams without sacrificing care quality or decreasing critical patient touch points. For example, we heard leaders lament about the high number of manual touches the current pre-operative process requires to adequately prepare patients for surgery. Everything from cold-calling patients to complete intake assessments, tracking timely patient completion of lab orders, and calling patients to make sure they know when to stop medications, where to park, and how to check in. All with the goal of having the patient on time and prepared for surgery.

The question I find myself asking is whether this is the best use of a nurse’s valuable time? The answer is clearly a resounding “no.”

Unfortunately, there is no single solution or silver bullet to resolve this issue. I wish there were. I do believe that digital transformation is key to moving forward, but this means thinking about digital transformation from another perspective. We often think of the patient experience when we discuss digital transformation: What does the patient need? How will they manage with the technology? These are important questions, but it’s just as important to think about the nurse’s experience. What does the nurse need to aid them in doing their work? How will they manage with the technology? How can we use automation in the nurse’s workflow to remove administrative tasks from their list of daily activities? Because when we do that, we free-up nurses’ time so they can focus on providing high-quality patient care instead of being burdened with manual and redundant administrative tasks.

This was recently confirmed for me by my colleague Jessie Israel, RN, MSN, Payer and Business Strategy Executive at Denver Wellness Associates. She and I participated in Lumeon’s recent Digital Transformation Webinar. When discussing how digital transformation could impact the care we provide, she stated, “Most nursing teams are not uniquely skilled at data entry, remembering to check boxes, making referrals and filling out questionnaires. Nurses enjoy their jobs when they are caring for people, helping them, offering reassurance, and decreasing confusion.”

Wow! She nailed that!

After 34 years as nurse, I have seen far too many unnecessary tasks placed into the nurse’s responsibilities. When there is no one else to do it, it often falls to the nursing team. It’s often “just the way it is.” It is time to unburden nurses and free them up to do what they love. Can it work? Absolutely.

We worked with one client recently who achieved 60% increase in staff productivity and efficiency in the pre-operative process. They didn’t work harder; they used our automation to work smarter. We automated their process where it made sense to do it and allowed the staff to focus on the needs of their patients and work at the tops of their license. That is true digital transformation!

Jessie’s statement was an excellent reminder to me of the driving reason most of us went to nursing school: we care about people. Her thoughts also validate why I came to Lumeon. Now, as I support health systems with the introduction of digital technology to support their clinical transformation, I am focused on helping organizations maximize their existing resources while providing higher quality patient care and reducing the need to add new staff members.

Digital transformation enables nurses, providers, and care teams to work top-of-license; adding automation and digital tools enhances staff job satisfaction, patient care, and provider-patient relationships. It’s a win-win situation and a short-term practical step towards addressing the current crisis.

Contact us today to find out how to optimize your organization’s pre-operative and pre-procedural processes to help your nursing staff work smarter, not harder.