Skilled nursing facilities struggle with significant problems among nurses related to their physical and mental health. The situation is so serious that in June Chief Surgeon Dr. Vivek Murthy predicted a shortage of more than 3 million health care workers and 140,000 doctors in the coming years and warned of an urgent need to address the health care worker burnout crisis across the country.
To protect the industry’s most valuable asset—their nurses—facility owners must find ways to meet the needs of their employees. Providing staff with tools, technology and support that enable nurses to do their jobs without feeling burdened and overwhelmed is critical to their health and happiness – and the health of the entire business. More flexibility and control over shift scheduling, tools to reduce administrator burnout, and same-day pay all go a long way toward easing the looming burnout crisis.
But first, how did we get here?
For more than two years, healthcare workers have faced continuous exposure to Covid and the consequences of treating sick patients – including unplanned sick and vacation days, unpredictable schedules, inconsistent childcare and more. In addition to high rates of infection and the resulting physical symptoms, workers had higher levels of anxiety, stress, depression and loneliness resulting from constant worry about exposure to loved ones, emotional and physical exhaustion and the struggle to balance work and parenting and family responsibilities.
The impact on labor availability is significant. In November 2021 health care employment remains 2.7 percent lower than February 2020, just before the pandemic hit the US
The thinning of the healthcare workforce will continue to have implications across the industry, but will be particularly more pronounced for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This industry sub-sector is already facing staffing and employment pressures as the population of people aged 65 and over grows rapidly. With the number of older people needing age-related care expected to reach 73 million by 2030 – up from 31 million in 2011 – the challenge of finding and retaining quality nurses is daunting.
Three ways to support nurses
Nursing home owners and operators must now take the necessary steps not only to attract and hire qualified nurses, but also to ensure that their existing employees are cared for and protected. They need to view the staff who care for them as their most valuable asset and provide access to the tools and technology that will allow them to do their jobs without feeling burdened and overwhelmed.
It starts with alleviating the mind-boggling administrative duties that seem to dominate workers’ daily lives. According to a study by Wakefield Research, 36 percent of clinicians spend more than half their day dealing with administrative tasks, who are repeatedly required to log into different and unrelated systems to enter an absurd amount of data multiple times a day. Seventy-two percent say the time spent on these tasks and the volume of manual data has and will continue to increase over the next 12 months. Eliminating time-consuming administrative tasks makes it easier for nurses to focus on what they love most about the job: providing quality patient care.
Additionally, nursing home owners should begin giving nurses more control over their schedules and arming them with the tools to more easily request shifts when available, implement changes, and request time off. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that flexibility is essential for today’s workforce. Nurses today, especially those just entering the workforce, want more control over their schedules and the flexibility to work on their own time and on their own terms. Facilities must arm them with tools to more easily request shifts when available, implement changes and request time off—or risk losing them altogether.
Finally, ensuring that nurses are paid on time to help alleviate any financial issues or stress associated with chasing payments will go a long way in reducing burnout. Nurses usually work scheduled shifts and get paid a week or two later. Even nurses who work on a per diem basis sometimes have to wait a week or so before they get paid. But there is demand for more immediate payment options. According to Rain, 89.9% of healthcare workers are more satisfied after accessing same-day payment. More than 40% of workers would choose same-day pay over waiting for payday if you gave them that option. Offering same-day pay to nurses allows more financial freedom and security and contributes greatly to a nurse’s happiness at work.
A healthier and happier future
The battle for healthcare workers is on. Nursing home owners motivated to preserve their most valuable assets, maintain their ratings, and provide an environment where nurses can focus on providing exceptional patient care is critical to addressing the burnout crisis.
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