As a member of the healthcare industry, you know what a difference it makes when patients visit the doctor at the first symptom of trouble rather than waiting until they are really sick. Keeping your facility fully staffed is no different. Ensuring the right number of nurses are in place or available as needed can reduce stress on your staff and keep patients healthy. Preventative staffing can increase employee satisfaction and retention on your nursing team.
Understaffing can Have a Significant Impact
Overtime is a reality of a career in nursing, and for many, a welcome source of extra income. But no one can work long hours indefinitely without ill effects. Excess overtime can harm work/life balance for nurses and even their health. According to a global study by the World Health Organization (WHO), 745,000 people died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease due to long hours. They found working 55 hours or more a week increased the risk of both heart disease and stroke. Hours like these are not atypical for nurses, particularly in a pandemic or other peak condition.
High-Stress can Equal Lowered Performance
When facilities are understaffed, nurses are overwhelmed by patient volume and the associated workload. If they are taking on a lot of overtime to pick up the slack, they’re tired and not performing at their best. This can lead to high-stress levels and sub-par patient care.
Nursing was Hit Hard by the COVID-19 Pandemic
In an already stressful profession, the pandemic has only made things worse. COVID-19 is leading many nurses to quit their jobs. Some are overwhelmed by stress, others due to their own illness or that of a family member. Many needed to leave work to home school or care for children. Many nurses chose to leave the field because the stress and potential danger of working during a pandemic were just too much.
Burnout Leads Nurses to Leave Their Profession
Supporting your team and remaining well-staffed is essential to retention and patient care. Nurses leave the profession because of stress, illness, family obligations, and increasing abuse from patients and patient families. You can hardly blame nurses for leaving the profession, but that doesn’t mean your facility shouldn’t make nurse retention a priority. According to a study by the RN Work Project, 17% percent of newly licensed RNs change jobs within one year of being hired, and 33% change jobs after two years. After eight years, 60% of new nurses will have changed jobs at least one time.
Nurse Turnover Leads to Shortages
A global pandemic, unsafe working conditions, stress and burnout, nurses reaching retirement age, and inadequate pay all add up to a shortage of nurses. Other issues that can lead to attrition include:
- Inadequate staffing levels
- Lack of control over scheduling
- Excessive overtime
- Unsatisfactory wage or benefit package
- Inadequate time for patient care
- Fear of workplace violence
- Lack of opportunities for advancement
Nurse Shortages Are Not Expected to End Soon
A report from the UC San Francisco Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care estimates a current shortage of 40,567 full-time equivalent registered nurses, a 13.6% gap projected to persist until 2026, according to an analysis of preliminary data from the 2020 Survey of California Registered Nurses and final data from the 2019-20 Annual RN Schools Survey. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, our country needs more than 11 million additional nurses to avoid further shortages through 2026.
Aging Population has a Double Impact
Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) represent 21.45% of the U.S. population or about 73 million Americans, so it’s no surprise they are having a significant impact on the nursing shortage. Not only are they retiring from the profession, but as they age, they add to the demand for nursing care. Between 2000 and 2018, the average age of employed registered nurses increased from 42.7 to 47.9 years old. And nearly half (47.5%) of all RNs are now over the age of 50. A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) predicts nursing shortages will be greatest in the Southern and Western United States.
Getting Ahead of Demand Can be Your Secret Weapon
When you need nurses, you are competing for limited resources with many other facilities. As you know, there are so many places where nurses are in demand – hospitals, medical practices, assisted living, long-term care, skilled nursing, behavioral, mental, and occupational health, and corrections and schools, just to name a few. Don’t wait until you’re scrambling to meet nurse-to-patient ratios to hire.
Coordinate with Public Health
In the case of widespread health threats, local government, the CDC, and NIH can be valuable allies. This has been especially evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but they can also provide information regarding the projected severity of flu season or diseases that are showing regional increases, such as Lyme Disease or Whooping Cough.
Proactive Staffing Can Boost Workplace Culture
Flexibility can help you adapt your staffing levels as needed to avoid nurse overwork as much as possible. Continually analyzing staffing levels, projected needs, and current issues can prevent small problems from becoming large ones that are more difficult to address. Reactive response to last-minute needs is not entirely avoidable, but if you are keeping it to a minimum with a primarily proactive approach, your team will have confidence you have nurse management under control. Staff can adjust to minor changes if the overall environment is one of stability.
Make Retention a Priority at Every Stage
Even from the application stage, it’s essential to evaluate how well the candidate will fit into the culture of the facility. If you are working well ahead of need, you can take your time in hiring, improving fit, and retention. Too many organizations are in the habit of not beginning the talent search until a position becomes vacant or a new position is created. That means positions are left vacant longer. Other nurses must cover for the absence, often working double shifts, causing stress and exhaustion for nurses and overtime expenses for the facility.
Adopt a Proactive Staffing Model
A proactive approach relies on data-based decision-making. Research indicates that it takes an average of 82 days to fill a bedside nurse vacancy. Predictive analytics gives you the data needed to anticipate that need well ahead of time to find the right candidate for a specific role, not just an available candidate. By the time the need arises, candidates are lined up and ready to go. This can be especially helpful for easy to anticipate nursing shortages such as ongoing public health issues or turnover such as upcoming requirements.
Temporary Staffing is an Essential Part of Preventative Staffing
Facilities can use travel and temporary nurses to pick up the slack created by increased demand for nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 47,000 registered nurses and 17,000 licensed practical nurses working temporary jobs in 2019. That’s not enough to fill all the current and anticipated nursing positions. That makes it even more critical to get ahead of the need.
Temporary nurses are invaluable in solving a variety of problems, including:
- Decreasing overtime. Temporary, contract or travel nurses can relieve nurses who are exhausted by excess overtime. It can keep your team working at their peak, improve work/life balance and save you money in the long run.
- Maintain optimal staffing levels. Ensuring adequate coverage can improve performance, job satisfaction, and retention. The extra staffing support ensures patients are well cared for, and workloads are reasonable and balanced.
- Create a Positive Culture. When nurses feel supported and that their workload is balanced, engagement and morale rise. They don’t feel like just a number; they feel appreciated and that their concerns are heard. This can improve your reputation among nurses, which will improve retention and make it easier to attract talented new people as well.
How Can you Add Temporary or Contract Nurses To Your Team?
Work with a staffing agency that specializes in medical, healthcare or nurse staffing. They will have a network of qualified nurses who enjoy the flexibility, variety, and challenges of healthcare assignments. Because the staffing agency is the employer of record, you don’t have to worry about sourcing, screening, credentialing benefits or workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance. The staffing agency will handle prescreening and training their nurses in advance.
Are You Looking to add Nurses to Your Team?
If your facility is short-staffed or your analysis indicates you soon might be, a medical employment agency can help you keep up with demand. You have many hiring options for nurses, including permanent full-time nurses to add to your team or temporary nurses to step in when you need short-term coverage.
Partner with BOS Medical Staffing
BOS Medical Staffing places RNs, LPNs, LVNs, and CNAs in Atlanta, Georgia, and beyond. Our recruiters provide you with skilled, credentialed, and fully vetted nurses for facilities including hospitals, medical practices, assisted living, long-term care, skilled nursing, behavioral, mental, and occupational health, and corrections. Don’t wait! BOS Medical can help you to develop a preventative staffing strategy to ensure you always have full coverage for your facility. Ensure full staffing levels and optimal patient care while protecting the health and wellbeing of your nursing staff and your bottom line. To give your patients the best possible care, give BOS Medical a call today!