Nurses save lives. But their work is not nearly as dramatic most of the time as TV’s fictional medical dramas would have us all believe. However, it is the reality that many patients are dependent upon fast-thinking, fast-acting, and skilled nurses to ensure their health and welfare. Given this fact, short staffing is a big challenge in nursing, and it can become a liability for medical facilities.
Adequate staffing in medical facilities isn’t just about shift coverage on paper. The reality of short staffing can be dire. Nurse-to-patient ratios is a topic of heated discussion everywhere from hospitals to state legislatures. While the financial bottom line is of vast importance to today’s corporate-run hospitals, it cannot be at the expense of patients. Short staffing creates a risk to patients all the way up the chain of care. The fallout of short staffing even finds its way into financial offices, as poor results can add up quickly.
What can be done to prevent short staffing in hospitals and other medical facilities? What role can nurses play in this challenge? And how do we stem the flow of nurses abandoning their careers due to burnout, attrition, and high turnover rates? First, we need to identify the real ways in which short staffing can affect the healthcare community as a whole. Then, we need to find realistic, plausible, and solid solutions to the short staffing challenge.
The Impact of Short Staffing on the Healthcare Community
When nurses are required to work with a high volume of patients, many different scenarios may take place. In the short run, an overburdened nurse may become weary. This can lead to misinterpretation of instructions, mistakes with medicine, and patients being short-changed on care. Too few nurses and too many patients can tax your staff beyond the norm, and you’ll notice an increase in falls, a higher rate of infection, and mistakes on the part of the nurse. Injuries and even death are legitimate concerns due to short staffing, too.
Obviously, your first concern is with patient care. Additionally, you risk inadvertently creating a situation where it becomes difficult to retain nursing staff. With a revolving door for your nursing staff, some important aspects of training and orientation may be overlooked, creating additional risks for patients. With an inadequate team of nurses, lack of appropriate training, and frequent mistakes resulting in liabilities to your medical facility, serious allegations can crop up. There is even the potential for lawsuits against your facility. These things threaten your entire healthcare community. And the implications of short staffing on your community are exponential.
Solve the Short Staffing Challenge
Hospitals and other medical facilities examine all the ways in which they can solve the need for more nurses. There’s no easy fix for a shortage in staff. The physical health of the community depends on the financial health of the facilities serving it. That means when there is an increase in a patient census, nurses must be available to meet the need for the benefit of patients. When the census goes down, maintaining the salaries of those nurses full-time isn’t a financially sound move.
Ultimately, being able to hire temporary nurses to fill the gap for a short period is the answer. The best way to find qualified nursing staff who are willing to work for a specific period is by engaging the services of a staffing agency. More and more healthcare facilities are utilizing staffing agencies as a welcome solution to the short staffing challenge.
A staffing agency takes the guesswork out of finding quality nursing job candidates. Initially, the agency learns about a medical facility and its staffing needs. Next, the agency works with the facility to find outstanding job candidates to fill nursing roles.
Meanwhile, a staffing agency simplifies talent recruitment. The agency can help a medical facility identify superior nursing job candidates at any time. It can vet these candidates on behalf of a medical facility and ensure they align with the facility’s requirements.
Some staff shortfalls are easier to predict. If you have a certain number of staff who will be taking family or medical leave or vacationing, you often know in advance and can engage a short-term nurse through a staffing agency. Your facility can keep temporary staff under contract for the anticipated length of time to ensure proper patient care.
Internal staffing is another possibility, but securing enough PRN or floating nurses isn’t always possible. You may have times where everything hits at once. For example, your nurses may be out on planned absences, and your community is hit with the flu or some other viral threat. In this instance, you need qualified staff, and you need them ASAP.
Medical Staffing Is the Solution
A staffing agency has already done the work of vetting your short-term employees. Licensure and certification are assuredly up to date, and credentials are as you require. There’s no need for your recruiting office to go into panic mode. All your solutions to your staffing shortage are right there waiting for you. A highly qualified and reputable medical staffing agency can protect your healthcare facility and the bottom line while providing the utmost in patient care.
There is no “quick fix” to the challenges of short staffing. Between the shortage of available nurses and the ever-increasing patient population in the U.S. keeping a safe nurse-to-patient ratio will continue to be a serious challenge. But with the availability of nurses via staffing agencies medical facilities will be able to avoid the many liabilities associated without having sufficient nursing staff to handle the patient load.
Of course, the nursing staffing agency you choose can have far-flung effects on your medical facility. This agency must have the experience necessary to handle any staffing requests that come its way.