Fulfilling a patient’s wish of getting to meet his newborn granddaughter before he passed. Comforting a cancer patient as she navigated a difficult treatment journey. Acting quickly to save a newborn during a labor emergency while helping the mother stay calm. These are just some of the moments that exemplify the incredible impact of nurses.
The opportunity to be there with the patient and their family during the joyous moments and the difficult ones is what makes nursing special, and it’s what draws many nurses to the profession. Yet, nurses today struggle to find the time to have these quality moments with patients, as too much of their time is taken up by administrative tasks like scheduling and disconnected technology. The overwhelming technology burden and having limited time to spend with patients drives some nurses to leave the profession.
How can we make a change so that the next generation of nurses is able to spend more time doing what they went into nursing to do – to provide patients with compassion and care? By streamlining technology to make time for the moments that matter most—providing care to patients—hospitals and health systems may be able to infuse more meaningful work into nurses’ day-to-day lives, reducing burnout and turnover.
Dwindling time for patient care
Today’s nurses spend more time caring for computers than they spend caring for patients. Research reveals that nurses spend only seven hours of a 12 hour shift on direct patient care. An exorbitant amount of time is spent on administrative tasks such as scheduling, quality outcomes reporting, payroll, peer clinical communications, and shift handoffs. In fact, a longitudinal study conducted by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) found that nurse managers spend 60-80% of their time on recruitment, staffing, and scheduling alone. While necessary, these tasks don’t provide direct value to patients and their families.
Rethinking the way technology is used in hospitals and health systems is a critical step to giving nurses time back for patient care. A recent survey conducted with CHIME revealed that the majority of health systems use over 50 separate software solutions for non-clinical operations. Working with these disparate and inefficient software is incredibly time-consuming and frustrating for clinicians. Notably, when asked how much time their organization’s clinicians could redirect to clinical care each week if their healthcare operations software were on a single platform, 84% said they could redirect at least 10% more time, with many reporting they could redirect upwards of 20% more time to patient care. This finding is echoed by recent research conducted by McKinsey & Company, which found the potential to free up 10-20% of nurses’ time through digital approaches that automated tasks. The impact of this time back would be astronomical for both clinicians and patients: the McKinsey researchers estimated the potential to close the workforce gap by up to 300,000 nurses, allowing for nurses to spend more quality moments that matter with patients and their families.
Moments that motivate and matter
The challenges facing nurses today can feel insurmountable at times. With workforce shortages are projected to continue and even worsen, nurses are dealing with overwhelming patient loads and solution fatigue, and quality one-on-one moments with patients may feel few and far between. But rather than throwing our hands up or being discouraged, we need to let these challenges motivate us to change for the better. We need to look at the hurdles nurses face and the lack of time spent with patients and ask ourselves, how do we do a better job of implementing integrated technology that truly makes clinicians’ jobs easier?
Simply throwing more technology at nurses is like giving a patient with congestive heart failure oxygen: it may temporarily alleviate the symptoms, but it’s not actually fixing the core problem. We need to get to the root of the issue and be thoughtful and strategic about the technologies we implement to ensure they provide value rather than adding burden. One key part of the solution is aligning stakeholders across the healthcare organization—in particular, fostering better communication between the IT professionals and CIOs who implement the technology and the clinicians who use it in their day-to-day work.
Today’s nurses and other healthcare workers are paving the way for the next generation of clinicians. I see young nurses and nurses in school who are passionate about helping patients, and my hope for them is that they can have more quality time with patients and less short staffing, administrative burden, solution fatigue, and burnout. If we can simplify nurses’ work by embracing technology that streamlines, automates, and integrates processes like scheduling, credentialing, and compliance management to enhance quality outcomes, we can give nurses time back to spend on the moments that matter most.
Photo: Mario Arango, Getty Images