Nurses Everywhere Rank Staffing as Their Biggest Problem
Real-time Location Systems (RTLS) can provide nurses and nurse executives with qualitative and quantitative data to understand and meet staffing requirements.HealthLeaders Media recently published their Top 10 Media News Stories of 2010. Healthcare reform, medical errors and nursing workforce issues dominated the headlines. One of the top stories regarding nursing workforce issues was the debate around nurse-patient ratios. It’s clear that this remains a hot topic.
As always, I read these types of news stories with an eye towards how RTLS can help nurses.
RTLS can be a powerful tool for providing nursing with objective documentation of whether hospitals are in compliance with their own nurse staffing ratios, as required by The Joint Commission. With RTLS, data on the number and location of nurses, supervisory personnel and support staff can be paired with patient location data to provide evidence of proper nurse-patient ratios, adequate numbers of supervisory and support staff, documentation of nurse call response times, and ultimately offer both quantitative and qualitative data to assist in managing staffing needs.
Joint Commission Standard NR.02.01.01 on Staffing and Delivery of Care clearly outlines that hospitals must have an adequate number of licensed nurses, as well as supervisory and staff personnel to provide the availability of a registered nurse for bedside care of every patient. Specific Elements of Performance (EP) to meet the standard include development of hospital-wide programs, policies and procedures that address how the nursing care needs of the patient population are assessed, met and evaluated as well as an effective on-going program to measure, analyze and improve the quality of nursing care, treatment and services.
According to the American Nurses Association, nurses everywhere rank staffing as their biggest problem. With RTLS, nurse executives can more easily document the workflow of nurses with useful data to understand and meet staffing requirements. Dashboards can portray current staffing against the number of patients per unit; staff break times and mealtimes can be easily visualized and alerts and reports can anticipate when ratios are set to fall below the stated hospital-wide policy.
While RTLS cannot alone solve nurse staffing issues, it can provide powerful data for both nurse executives and for nurses themselves to assist in developing an effective program to measure, analyze and improve the quality of nursing care, treatment and services in their hospitals.
Although I’m not a clinician, I found the Safe Staffing Stories, submitted by RNs to the ANA when asked about their experiences related to safe staffing, a powerful testament to the need to use available technology, like RTLS, to better understand the issues, help nurses document their challenges, and assist nurse executives with actionable data to make informed decisions about staff ratios.
If you’re a nurse, would you welcome objective documentation of your specific work load? Would it be useful to you for the nurse executive to know when adequate levels of both supervisory and support personnel staff are not being met on your units?
If you’re a nurse executive, would it be helpful to have a real-time system to predict when ratios are about to fall below the required minimums to help you adjust staff accordingly?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on RTLS as a tool to impact nursing workloads and compliance documentation, and help assure safe, quality patient care.