New Study Provides Critical Wake-up Call for Nursing Industry 

Today’s post comes to us fromNanne Finis, RN, MS, chief nurse executive at UKG
While COVID-19 has impacted millions of workers across the world, the pandemic arguably hit the nursing industry the hardest. Rising coronavirus cases and overcrowded hospitals gave way to increased burnout, staffing shortages, and higher turnover among nurses. 
But these nursing industry challenges began well before the pandemic. 
A new study by Wolters Kluwer and UKG — titled Nursing’s Wake-up Call: Change is Now Non-Negotiable — details how the pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing nursing shortage, and what can be done to ensure better short- and long-term outcomes. 
I partnered with Wolters Kluwer’s Chief Nurse, Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, to conduct interviews with 16 nurse leaders and survey 300 others to better understand nurse-leader perspectives on staffing, technology, and evolving care-delivery workforce models. Our research was intended to provide a snapshot of a point in time on the current and future state of nursing labor models across care settings, and how those models might shift during the next 18 months. 
As the study explains, “the pandemic has brought a confluence of new realities and ongoing trends: there are simply not enough nurse graduates because of a combination of fewer clinical preceptors, limited classroom space, lack of clinical sites, and just not enough faculty.” 
Among key findings from the study: 

  • The nursing labor shortage is going to get worse: 92% of survey respondents predict they will be short of budgeted headcount over the next 18 months. 
  • Leaders face challenges with both retention and recruitment: 58% of respondents do not expect to bring in additional staff or new roles due to financial constraints and are focused on how to retain their current workforce. 
  • Adoption of alternative care models is slow. Acute and ambulatory settings have been slow to embrace new models of care, but success with float pools during the pandemic is an opportunity for expansion: 92% of respondents in the acute setting plan to expand or establish float pools in the next 18 months. 
  • Flexibility for nurses is still lacking. Despite widely reported burnout, respondents generally expect few changes in shift duration after the pandemic, with the average shift remaining 12 hours for nurses in acute and post-acute settings and 8-hour shifts in ambulatory settings. 
  • Staffing processes are still largely manual. According to the study, 75% of respondents use staffing technology in some capacity, but day-to-day staffing is often handled manually. 

Fortunately, there are ways to improve the current situation, and the study points out several strategies for doing so, but it requires commitment and changes in the way we think and act. For example, rethinking the labor model to include team-based nursing (I wrote about the effectiveness of teams last year). 
A team-based, alternative care model utilizes LPNs, UAPs, RNs who have less experience, and other healthcare professionals who care for patients under the direction of experienced RNs. This provides the flexibility to scale and retract, depending on patient load, allowing healthcare facilities to tap into staff depending on patients’ acuities needs and the number of patients. 
It has been a devastating two years for nurses all over the world, and they need our ongoing support and care. This study truly is a wake-up call for the nursing industry. We must answer the call, take action, and make change to better serve all nurses and protect the future of our vital profession. 
Download the complete nursing workforce study today