Safe & Effective Nurse Staffing: More Than a Number

Safe & Effective Nurse Staffing: More Than a Number

If you’re a nurse staff manager or nursing manager, you know that safe and effective nurse staffing requires more than proper staff training and the necessary skills. It also relies on thoughtful nurse management, deployment and support, and good leadership at every level.  

Even before the pandemic, nurses struggled with burnout, reflected in intention to leave the job, increased sickness, lower quality of care delivery, and lower productivity.  

But as you well know, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested all health care providers. And we may not have seen the peak of burnout yet–it may be a product of chronic strain.  

How to give nurses the resources they need to do their job
Studies have shown that hospitals with more nurses have lower levels of staff burnout and improved outcomes, including patient satisfaction. In contrast, rushed, inconsiderate, disrespectful, or rude staff-patient experiences make for unsatisfied patients. More ominously: A recent US study showed that patients exposed to low staffing levels risked a subsequent healthcare-associated infection increase of up to 15%. 

Registered nurses (RNs) are in short supply. And while it might make sense to address the nurse shortage and burnout by changing the skill mix and employing lower-grade staff to substitute for nurses for specific tasks, reducing the proportion of RNs on the nursing team creates problems. Some of the nursing management approaches that make sense include: 

  • Using tools that help you anticipate unexpected peaks. Using staffing tools helps maintain a higher baseline staffing level than average, so staff can meet any unanticipated peaks in demand (staff from another unit can provide extra cover). This more-resilient approach can be more cost-effective. 
  • Avoid having staff work to the top of their skill level. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, dealing with surge capacity means it is essential to have some excess capacity. Highly skilled staff can step into new roles and fulfill a range of functions, while less-skilled staff can only work to the top of their skill level. 
  • Employ extra staff to ensure the routine workload is not excessive and maintain your quality of care. When nursing staff is potentially available to help when there is a shortfall elsewhere, you provide flexible staffing, not reducing the core staff to a minimum. 

Congress has proposed minimum RN-to-patient ratios for every hospital unit 
Congress recently introduced a federal nurse-to-patient staffing ratio bill. Entitled the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act, the new bill aims to limit the number of patients RNs can care for at one time to ensure the delivery of safe, quality care and avoid medical errors. The new legislation would also provide whistleblower protection so nurses can freely speak out and enforce safe staffing standards. Legislators modeled the bill on a 2004 California law designed to improve quality of care, attract nurses back to direct-care nursing, reduce nurse burnout and keep experienced RNs at the patient bedside.  

How can you improve nurse staffing? 
Make nurses’ jobs easier and more flexible. A solution like ShiftMed allows nurses to accept shifts whenever and wherever they want. With added flexibility, nurses feel more empowered to control their lives. 

ShiftMed recruits, hires, and onboards nursing staff to cover open shifts in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rehab centers, and other locations. Whether you are new to the nursing industry or have been around for many years, ShiftMed wants you to work for us. Apply today!

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