Can technology help stem the tide of nursing staff turnover?

HLTH panellists say the pandemic and increasing documentation burden has disillusioned nurses and IT needs to support them and expand their skills.


Nurses leave provider workforces disillusioned with the workload and documentation requirements.

Nursing turnover statistics are sobering, and information technology must answer the call to stem the tide of shrinking provider workforces and to augment and expand existing nursing teams.

Current data suggests the US healthcare industry may have 200,000 to 450,000 nursing job openings by 2025, but those estimates may be underestimated due to disillusionment with the profession, panelists at HLTH in Las Vegas noted Sunday, November 13th, feast.

Trauma related to the COVID-19 pandemic caused 100,000 nurses to leave the workforce in 2021, and this year annual sales are up 27 percent, said Bonnie Clipper, panel moderator and chief executive of Innovation Advantage, at a Nursing issues specialized consulting firm. Younger nurses are increasingly disillusioned with the workload of nursing, and 57 percent of new nurses leave the profession after two years.

Nurses are leaving in droves

“There is an exodus from healthcare that no one is talking about,” said Rebecca Love, chief clinical officer at IntelyCare, which provides technology that caters to caregivers who want to partner with providers seeking care services. “One in three nurses plans to leave the profession soon. The irony is that there have never been as many nurses in the US as there are today. What we have today is a shortage of nurses willing to work in the healthcare system.”

The outflow means less experienced nurses tend to sicker patients, and that increases the risk of medical errors that impact patient safety. Digital recording systems have yet to alleviate the burden and are often cited as contributing factors to physician burnout and turnover.

“The fact is, we couldn’t ask for anything more from nurses, especially when it comes to electronic health records,” said Michael Golebiowski, corporate vice president of strategy and innovations at Braun Medical. “They don’t have a good work-life balance at the moment.”

The documentation burden has increased due to demands from outside organizations like payers and the Joint Commission, claims Hiyam Nadal, director of the Center for Innovations in Care Delivery, an incubator at Massachusetts General Hospital. During the panel discussion, she contrasted what she needed to document for incoming patients a few years ago, and then unrolled a long scroll detailing all of the current information requirements for patients. “And all of this has to be done within the confines of a 15-minute visit; no wonder mistakes happen.”

Nurses’ responsibility to provide hands-on care is critical in modern healthcare and in consumers’ perceptions of the care they receive, Nadal stressed. “The last time you had any contact with the health system, most of you would say it wasn’t great. When things get in the way, it really breaks that relationship. And as a nurse, if I don’t have that patient relationship anymore, there’s no reason for me to stay. We need to bring that relationship back.”

Technology has to help

Nurses need more input into technology solutions, Nadal said; Harvesting suggestions from caregivers, their incubator aims to find technological solutions. “Never before have nurses been presented with so many solutions or received their feedback on those solutions. Could we use that to make nurses better?”

IntelyCare’s matching capabilities have helped connect 50,000 caregivers across 29 states with providers, often matching caregivers who are no longer working full-time with provider organizations in need of care services. This gives vendors the option of expensive 90-day temp contracts, a typical way of filling vacancies.

CareRev Founder and CEO Will Patterson highlighted his company’s role in using technology to connect 1,000 caregivers to the SSM integrated healthcare system in St. Louis. “If we’re going to have that kind of workforce, we need to have technology and do it in smarter ways. With part-time employment, we need to set up a new workforce management system.”

And it’s not just a lack of nurses. Providers lack schedulers to manage the allocation of hours and the pandemic has shredded capacity in areas such as respiratory therapists, doctors and others, Nadal noted.

“We’ve never seen a point like this in history,” Patterson said. “People often need a disaster to change. There are innovations in onboarding and app use on mobile phones. We are watching healthcare systems that are absolutely going to change and we are now in a super fast cycle.”

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