Every year in the U.S., 31 million tons of food ends up in landfills. Meanwhile, almost a billion people are starving. Sometimes, determining a solution is the easy part. Actually implementing that solution is where things get sticky. Much like in the healthcare world, where our aging population will double by 2050–all we need is more nurses, right?

We can talk about the current nursing shortage till we’re blue in the face, especially the alarming rate at which nurses are leaving their careers within the first three years, but how often do we quantify this problem from the patient side of the issue? As our healthcare system slowly transitions toward the pay-for-performance model, the cost of nursing dissatisfaction and disengagement will require a new set of metrics that doesn’t rely on paid services rendered.

Emerging technologies, of course, can offer a huge help in solving the nursing crisis, but, for these particular solutions, understanding the full scope of disengagement and its ripple effect throughout a single hospital will be absolutely necessary for achieving comprehensive solutions.

Where exactly does disengagement affect quality of care?

In 2015, API Healthcare, a GE Healthcare company, published a white paper that examined a variety of research regarding the link between nurse staffing variables (staff capacity, staff experience, voluntary overtime, etc.) and patient outcomes. According to the research, the following represents only five of the most dire areas of where our nursing shortage continues to complicate the shift to quality of care:

1) Patient Falls

  • “An additional hour of RN care per patient day reduced the fall rate by 2.8 percent.
  • Patient falls are 3.36 times more likely when nurses work voluntary overtime.”

2) Medication Errors

  • “For every 20 percent decrease in staffing below the staffing minimum, medication errors increase by 18 percent.
  • Medication errors are 3.71 times more likely when nurses work more than 40 hours per week.”

3) Patient Mortality

  • “The risk of death increased 2 percent for each below-target shift (low staffing) and 4 percent for each high-turnover shift (patient churn).
  • An increase of one RN per 1,000 inpatient days decreased mortality rate by 4.3 percent.”

4) Length of Stay

  • “Increases in RN staffing in general hospital units have resulted in a reduction of 5.7 percent in patient days.
  • A one-year increase in the average tenure of RNs on a hospital unit was associated with a 1.3 percent decrease in length of stay.”

5) Patient Readmissions

  • “Nurse-to-patient ratios of 1 to 4.95 or lower reduced heart failure readmissions by 7 percent, myocardial infarction readmissions by 6 percent, and pneumonia readmissions by 10 percent.
  • Each one-patient increase in the hospital’s average pediatric staffing ratio increased a surgical child’s odds of readmission by 48 percent and a medical child’s odds of readmission of 11 percent.”

Curbing disengagement begins with a tightly-knit staff

Ramiro Roman, general manager for workforce management at GE Healthcare, asserts that, even before a single byte of new technology is implemented, solving current staffing issues requires “collaborative open shift management across the entire enterprise.” While hospitals use a variety of strategies to solve staffing issues, Roman claims that one avenue is common amongst any successful institution: “developing an internal resource pool and empowering nurses to do self-directed floating.” Not only has GE Healthcare repeatedly seen this approach work, it also keeps the staff content and engaged by allowing them to help dictate the optimal work schedule for everyone involved.

It’s this very concept of communication and teamwork that EngagedNurse hopes to foster amongst nurses across the world. As an online collaborative community and resource center, EngagedNurse offers nurses a rich forum for sharing their stories while also offering advice and mentorship to each other. Through this interchange of ideas and experiences, nurses will be able to return to their respective institutions with a fresh outlook on what’s possible for building the ideal quality of care environment for their staff and for their patients.
For more information, join EngagedNurse on the following platforms:

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This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesZach Cioffi and Beth Roddy with lead writer Bill DiNome.

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