A recent HealthLeaders article, “Engage Nurses to Raise Your Patient Safety Scores,” urges hospital leaders to get their nurses behind institutional patient safety and health care quality measurement and improvement efforts. The compelling central logic is that nurses are the ones who actually take care of patients. But who is getting behind the nurses—i.e., supporting them—in their patient care efforts?
By multiple accounts, being a nurse in a hospital is not much fun these days. The number of tasks assigned to nurses grows by the day, but the number of nurses to do this work does not grow. Each new task subtracts from face-to-face time with patients and the quality and safety enhancements associated with these interactions. And now, as reported in an article in the February 2011 issue of Health Affairs, “Performance-Based Payment Incentives Increase Burden and Blame for Hospital Nurses,” 86 percent of nurses recently questioned believe they are likely to be blamed for patient safety failures associated with government financial sanctions.
The bottom line is that many of today’s nurses are planning to abandon the acute care environment within the next year—40 percent of them according to a recent survey. Further, hospitals lose one-third of new nurses before they reach the age of 30. It’s time for hospital leaders to wake up and take charge of this situation.
Organizational Change Needed
This is the substance of which organization culture change needs to be made. Culture change is leader-driven, and it is a long journey, but there are tangible markers of support and caring that can evidence meaningful progress. Some of those noted in the Health Affairs article include investments in non-RN support staff, education and training, physical plant improvements, and technology and decision support, as well as the creation of blame-free environments.
Technology Solves Nursing Issues
Of all of the improvement opportunities at hand, technology offers the lowest-hanging fruit. The nursing community has already come to this realization. An American Academy of Nursing-sponsored article in the fall 2008 issue of the Journal of Healthcare Information Management entitled, “Smart Technology, Enduring Solutions,” provides a detailed analysis of technology intervention needs for nurses and the array of technology solutions available to meet these needs. The smart hospital leader should immediately digest this analysis and begin to act on it.
As the analysis points out, there are multiple opportunities for healthcare technology of all kinds, and many are quite specific to the RTLS solutions that Awarepoint offers. Among the top priorities cited in the article were the ability to find and track movable medical equipment, the need to facilitate and document work flows of different types, and the importance of interoperability and integration of functionalities. These are, of course, all Awarepoint strong suits.
The workflow optimization opportunities offered by Awarepoint cover a variety of subcategories, some of which are mentioned in the article. These include site-specific (e.g., emergency department and operating room) workflows, hand hygiene monitoring, and management of par levels of infusion pumps on nursing units, among others.
The message to hospital leaders is support your nurses so that they can support you. Specifically, begin to create a constructive and supportive work culture for nurses for the long term, and start now to begin investing in supportive technology solutions that will be good for nurses and good for the hospital too.
Awarepoint has the technology and solutions to help nurses and hospitals in providing efficient, high quality care.
How does your hospital support its nurses?
~Dennis O'Leary, M.D.