What Keeps Nurses Up at Night?

We’ve all been there: You’re lying in bed, and have been for hours. Staring at the ceiling. Tossing. Turning. What are you thinking about?

We asked nurses and nurse leaders this question recently in a focus group we hosted at AONE 2017, the annual meeting of American Organization of Nurse Executives. We discovered it’s usually one or a combination of the following topics that keeps them up at night:

The patient experience: Nurses are the primary caregivers in all healthcare environments (hospitals and health systems, clinics, and community settings). According to AHRQ, physicians are seen as the “captains” of care teams, and for good reason, but they may only be able to spend 30-45 minutes per day with even a critically ill patient. Nurses, on the other hand, are a constant presence at the bedside, and many studies have shown that essential elements to improving the patient experience include quality of nursing care, collaborative working relationships, and adequate staffing (more on that later), among others. In the Beryl Institute’s most recent State of Patient Experience report, nurse communication was frequently cited by respondents as a top priority to improve the patient experience and HCAHPS scores.

Patient quality and safety: Nurses are often called the “gatekeepers” of the quality and safety of patient care since they are on the front lines every day and overwhelmingly spend more time with patients than anyone else on the care team. Many factors influence patient quality and safety, including the nurse-to-patient ratio/nursing workload, working conditions and interruptions, and availability of colleagues and other resources.

Nurse retention and recruitment: Nurses compose the largest segment of the healthcare workforce in the U.S. at three million strong, and nursing is also one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this is not enough. The “2030 problem” refers to the fact that our senior citizen population will increase by 75 percent to 69 million between 2010 and 2030. Healthcare organizations face the challenge of retaining their nurses (the profession experiences a 17 percent turnover rate) and recruiting new ones to be able to care for the needs of a growing elderly population.

Keeping up with the rate of change: Healthcare has always been a fast-paced industry, but the transformation currently underway—volume to value—is a real paradigm shift, and one that relies on many other changes for success. For example, nurses have to keep pace with technology and learn how innovations influence their ability to respond to patient needs. They also may have to adapt to new methods of communicating and collaborating with physicians in order to better coordinate care and reduce costs.

Whew, that’s a lot! But we’re here to help. One of the primary things that attracted me to Spok was that its enterprise healthcare platform, Spok Care Connect®, has the ability to help nurses in not just one or two of these areas, but all of them. Here are a few of the many ways that advanced clinical communications can help address these challenges:

Mobile messaging: Nurses are always on the move, and so they must be able to send and receive vital information quickly and easily. A secure messaging solution helps nurses avoid phone tag, by allowing them to text updates to physicians and access up-to-date on-call schedules. It can also save them time by simplifying their workflows by maintaining a library of templated messages they can easily use for routine processes. Mobile messaging also helps nurses keep the focus on the patient with the ability to facilitate PRN treatment requests and transfer/handoff communication.

Web applications and directory access: Spok can help reduce nurses’ reporting burden with its Spok Care Connect web applications and directory access. Nurses are constantly multitasking, prioritizing, and reprioritizing. Web applications allow the nurse to communicate quickly, even when charting. They can see the status and device of the recipient, and confirm receipt of the message, which provides the all-important closed-loop communication. The directory allows nurses to communicate with members of the care team inside and outside of the hospital without wasting time looking up numbers or walking to the nurses’ station. It also eliminates the worry of contacting the wrong person.

Clinical alerting: Nurses may not be able to be in multiple places at the same time physically, but you can bet they are thinking about all of their patients. Clinical alerting allows nurses to be mobile but still connected to their patients: They can receive alerts and alarms on their preferred device, which can be coded with different colors and audible tones to help them prioritize. Automated message escalation to another on-duty staff member decreases risk and provides and extra level of safety.

The return on investment (ROI) for these capabilities can be incredible: Hospitals can reduce sentinel events, length of stay, physician and nurse burnout, and door to balloon times, while improving patient, physician, and nurse satisfaction, as well as compliance with Magnet® and Pathways to Excellence®.

We’ve been hearing that nurses are dissatisfied with their existing communication options. From our conversations at AONE 2017 and in other venues, we know they’re ready to embrace change. You can bridge gaps in care, improve the patient experience, and help nurses rest a little easier at night: Take the time to explore Spok’s enterprise healthcare communication solutions.

Are you the change agent at your organization? We’d love to hear your plans and learn how we might be able to help: Let’s start the conversation.