To say that it’s a challenging time in the healthcare industry is an understatement. Traditional systems for addressing patient acuity, nursing workload intensity, and staffing levels are inadequate to meet today’s healthcare challenges. They are far too subjective, limited in scope, labor intensive, cumbersome, and inconsistently used.
As an optimist, I’m always searching for solutions to vexing problems. For instance, I know technology can support nurse leaders and healthcare executives more than they realize – but they’re just too busy managing patient care units and have limited personal bandwidth to develop long-term strategies.
This is where UKG comes in. We have daily discussions about how to best support our customers with facts, technology innovations, and shared best practices. So, as part of our commitment to the healthcare industry, our think tank, The Workforce Institute at UKG, recently conducted a comprehensive literature review and interviewed a large sample of nurse leaders from across the country to learn what they consider to be the current best practices in measuring and reporting nursing workload intensity. The result is a newly published white paper, Technology Innovation in Addressing Nursing Workload Intensity and Resource Allocation.
The white paper gives insight on these important questions:
- What are some field-tested approaches that healthcare organizations can use to meet the challenge of optimal and efficient use of resources while providing high-quality and safe patient care?
- What technology must be in place to automate this challenging process?
- What are the risks to patients, clinical staff, healthcare organizations/systems, and the healthcare industry itself if we fail to innovate?
Using Technology to Support Work-Life Balance
Eight Key Principles to Follow When Designing New Systems
Using design thinking methodology, several compelling themes and key principles emerged from our nurse leader interviews and literature review. I’ve compiled them here as eight action steps that all healthcare leaders should consider when developing new systems that address critical workload intensity.
1. Develop a consistent understanding and use of terminology.
2. Improve the integration of existing systems for the EHR, workforce management, and finance and budget data.
3. Provide nurse leaders with easy and real-time access to tools for valid decision-making about nursing workload intensity and staffing.
4. Integrate professional nursing judgment with data from technology solutions to determine nursing workload intensity.
5. Test the validity and inter-rater reliability of the nursing workload intensity system.
6. Engage nurse leaders and nursing staff in the successful implementation of the nursing workload intensity system.
7. Apply technology in new and innovative ways to assist nurse leaders with deploying staffing resources optimally and safely.
8. Demonstrate the value of nursing.
The impact of workload intensity on dissatisfaction, burnout, attrition
Through this research and in my extensive experience interviewing clinicians and executives, I’ve seen firsthand that the most innovative and successful healthcare leaders are those who relentlessly focus on their people. They are striving to support life-work balance. These leaders are using technology to support their entire staff on the journey to avoiding fatigue and burnout, which is a pervasive workplace hazard in stressful environments.
I see them using technology to monitor things like:
Hours worked or scheduled
- Consecutive days worked
- Shifts greater than 16 hours of worked time in a day
- Shifts with less than 8 hours of rest between them
- High weekly hours over long periods of time
Then linking outcomes like these to hours worked or scheduled
- Associating first-year turnover with a high percentage of hours being worked outside of a schedule and a high number of shifts that have a combination of long hours and/or low rest
- Tracking patient safety and quality incidents that may result from fatigue-related errors
- Connecting nurse-related work perceptions and self-awareness of fatigue or burnout
There is a great deal of evidence to support our attention on fatigue, work stress, and burnout. A Frontline of Healthcare survey conducted by *Bain and Company revealed that 25% of U.S. clinicians are seriously contemplating switching careers, with 89% of them citing burnout as the main cause. Many clinicians reported a lack of effective processes and workflows, supplies, and equipment and more than half felt their teams are inadequately staffed.
What would help turn this situation around? The solution proposed in the Bain and Company brief is a long-term investment in technology that includes tools with intelligent workflow and workforce management to increase day-to-day job predictability. With predictability comes the ability to plan, which in turn is a key contributor to providing work-life balance in demanding and stressful workplace environments.
A new way forward is essential
Creating a system that will positively impact patient quality and safety while ensuring that staffing resources are deployed where they are most needed is within current technology’s reach. As we continue to understand the emerging science of nursing workload intensity, your team at UKG will listen and work collaboratively to design meaningful and innovative solutions.
Learn how some leading healthcare organizations are designing new systems to address clinical workload intensity and staffing issues in this newly published white paper, Technology Innovation in Addressing Nursing Workload Intensity and Resource Allocation.
Get MORE information ABOUT HOW AND WHY YOUR HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATION CAN IMPROVE ITS OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY IN OUR FULL STUDY, RETHINKING NURSING PRODUCTIVITY TO ENHANCE ORGANIZATIONAL PERFORMANCE.
Watch a replay of the webinar Unique Perspectives on Creating Operational Efficiencies in Healthcare where Nanne Finis hosts Ryan McGarry, MD, and Betty Jo Rocchio, DNP, in a discussion about ways to unburden healthcare clinicians by reducing manual tasks, creating operational efficiencies, and providing real-time data to improve patient care.
*Ney, E., Brookshire, M., and Weisbrod, J. “A Treatment for America’s Healthcare Worker Burnout,” Brief from Bain & Company, October 11, 2022.