How to implement tech to improve nurses' workloads

After nearly two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has put increasing pressure on the nation’s healthcare system and its staff, including the nursing workforce.

According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post, one-fourth of healthcare workers who handle patient treatment and diagnosis like doctors and nurses said they’d considered leaving the industry because of the pandemic. But there were factors driving a nursing shortage even before COVID-19, like an aging population that needs more healthcare services, a workforce that’s rapidly reaching retirement and insufficient resources to train newcomers.

“Nursing shortages lead to poorer quality care and more patient deaths. There is ample research that has found staffing shortages contribute to increased rates of medication errors and patient adverse events. Moreover, the CDC has projected that when our national ICU capacity is above 75%, we can expect 12,000 excessive deaths just two weeks later,” Joel D. Ray, vice president of patient care services and CNO, and Julia W. Aucoin, director of practice, quality and research at UNC REX Healthcare wrote to MobiHealthNews.

“These problems are compounded when we consider the disproportionate loss of experienced nurses who have retired and an increased reliance on traveler nurses or nurses ‘borrowed’ from other units/disciplines that might not be familiar with that unit’s standard of care.”

Implementing new technologies could lower the burden on nurses. Virtual support can assist new nurses, train peers and consult with patients. Artificial intelligence tools can keep an eye on a patient’s condition.

But departments across the health system need to collaborate to make sure the product actually works for the user and saves them time. Developers need to test the technology thoroughly before it’s implemented and ensure that it’s easy to make necessary changes.

“Just like someone buying a car for another person, the technology has to fit the scope and size of the use. It has to be easy to operate and yet help the nurse reach the destination smoothly. The nurse should listen to the sales pitch and provide feedback throughout the customization and implementation phases,” Ray and Aucoin wrote.

“Only then can the nurse truly trust, support, and promote the use of the new technology. Additionally, engaging our interprofessional partners early on is key to success.”

The HIMSS session “Unparalleled Nursing Shortage and Novel Tech Solutions” will take place on Wednesday, March 16, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Orange County Convention Center W303A.

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