3 challenges keeping nurses up at night (3 technology solutions to help)  

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’ve asked nurses and nurse leaders this question over the years at industry events such as AONL and most recently at the CNO Exchange in November.  We’ve discovered it’s usually one or a combination of the following topics that keep them up at night.  

Challenge #1: 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 and collaborative working relationships, among others. In the Beryl Institute’s most recent State of Patient Experience report, experience outcomes are influenced by an integrated focus with growing recognition of the role of technology (more on that later). 

What’s more, nurses are often called the “gatekeepers” of the quality and safety of patient care since they’re 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. 

Challenge #2: Nurse retention and recruitment  

Nurses compose the largest segment of the healthcare workforce in the U.S. at over three million strong according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this is not enough. According to The American Nurses Association (ANA), more registered nurse jobs will be available through 2022 than any other profession in the United States. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030.  

The COVID 19 pandemic exacerbated this issue with staffing shortages continuing to grow. According to a 2021 survey conducted by McKinsey and Company, 84% of respondents reported ‘nursing workforce coverage’ as their ongoing challenge related to COVID 19. The same respondents indicated an average nursing turnover rate in the past 12 months of 15.8%. How are hospitals responding? According to the survey, 31% of hospitals are increasing nurse wages.  

Although the causes related to the nursing shortage are numerous and issues of concern, one of the potential reasons centers on the aging baby boom generation. In 2029, the last of the baby boomer generation will reach retirement age, resulting in a 73% increase in Americans 65 years of age and older, 41 million in 2011 compared to 71 million in 2019. As this population ages, the need for health services increases. Healthcare organizations face the challenge of retaining their nurses and recruiting new ones to be able to care for the needs of a growing elderly population. 

Challenge #3: Keeping up with the rate of change  

The pandemic has rearranged nearly every aspect of healthcare and it has been a transformational time for the field of nursing. The indisputable need for nurses has never been clearer. Yet, nurses have adapted well despite impossible circumstances.  

Keeping pace with technology has been a top challenge. Nurses must learn how innovations influence their ability to respond to patient needs. Consider the quick adoption of telehealth technology.  

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. 

The Spok Care Connect® platform can help nurses in many of the areas discussed above. Here are a few of the many ways that advanced clinical communications can help address the top challenges keeping nurses awake at night. 

Solution #1: Secure 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. 

Solution #2: 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. 

Solution #3: 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 an extra level of safety. 

Empowering patient care collaboration   

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. 

We’ve been hearing that nurses are dissatisfied with their existing communication options. From our conversations, 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. 

How can you learn more?   

  • Read more about the state of healthcare communications in this 2021 report 
  • Watch how VCU Health transformed its clinical communication by using Spok Care Connect® in this video 
  • Are you a change agent at your organization? We’d love to hear your plans and learn how we might be able to help: talk to us  

Join the Spok blog and stay informed on the latest updates in clinical communications.

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