How Tech Can Help Combat the Nursing Shortage

The nursing shortage is stretching care teams to their limits. Technology can help harmonize workflows, automate documentation tasks and simplify communication to give nurses time back to spend with their patients. This is part of an ongoing series about innovative solutions to help combat the nursing shortage.

The impact of the pandemic has added to the already growing shortage of nurses in the U.S.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2030, we'll need approximately 300,000 more nurses in the U.S. than in 2020. BLS also predicts that there will be openings for 194,500 nurses each year, largely due to the need to replace nurses who are retiring or leaving the profession altogether. 

There's no doubt that nurses are feeling the burden. Whether there's an influx of higher acuity patients or the unit is short staffed overall, nurses on the clock find themselves stretched thin among many demands. While technology alone is not a magic pill to resolve nursing burden, it can be put in the hands of all care and support team members to offset less clinical work to others so nurses can focus on patient care. Here are three ways technology can help ease the burden on nurses:

1. Making communication easier: Nurses spend as much as 24% of their time communicating with other members of the team to coordinate patient care.1 Returning pages and phone calls through disconnected systems is time consuming and can also lead to gaps and communications failures. Introducing a unified nursing communication platform can bring those necessary touch points together in one place, making it faster and simpler to share patient updates, flag new orders and more. Inefficient communication impacts hospitals as well, costing an estimated $1.7B.2 After implementing a nursing communication platform, one hospital saw that nurses reduced time spent on phone calls by 82%.3 Another hospital saw overhead pages drop by 78%4.

2. Managing alarms effectively: While devices monitor critical information and can detect a patient's physiological changes, the volume of information they produce causes a familiar problem – alarm fatigue. Studies have shown that 85%+ of these alarms do not require clinical interventions. With so many alerts coming through, care teams may ignore alarms, lower the volume or adjust the settings – actions that can have serious consequences.5 By linking a care communications platform with an alert and alarm management solution, hospitals can minimize the unnecessary interruptions, while improving response times. Technology can make notifications timelier and more meaningful, while helping reduce the time nurses spend resolving alarms. These tools include visualization of waveforms and patient clinical context for viewing on smartphones that puts information in the nurse's hand to help assess an alarm; customizable alarm escalation pathways that can empower nurses to adjust thresholds for nonactionable alarms to the individual patient; and alarm filtering to smartphones or other devices. 

3. Meaningful connectivity to the EMR: While connecting medical devices to the hospital electronic medical record (EMR) system offers several benefits, it can also streamline workflow for nurses, automating manual tasks that give nurses more time for patient care. Realizing the full benefits of charting automation requires a connectivity strategy of engaged clinicians, vendors and technical resources who are focused on purposeful innovation and removing the unnecessary "clicks." A 2019 survey found that 77% of clinicians identify documenting and charting in the EMR as a source of cognitive overload,6  supporting the need for greater automation.

These technologies can play a role in helping to create optimal care environments. One where the work is evenly distributed and nurses can maintain their focus on delivering patient care.