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Understaffing is a prominent issue among healthcare facilities, one that has been exacerbated with the onset of the pandemic. Additional factors contributing to understaffed facilities include increased retirements, resignations, and budget cuts. Such shortages have left current nurses with excessive workloads, increased patient ratios, added pressures, and greater opportunity for burnout and fatigue.

Several studies from Columbia, Indiana State, Purdue, and Eastern Michigan University demonstrate the adverse effects that understaffed healthcare facilities have among both patients and nurses. Specifically, there are higher occurrences of accidents, medical errors, infections, falls, and increased mortality rates in hospitals experiencing short handed staff.

This close correlation between inadequate staffing and increased medical errors, infections, and mortality rates is alarming, especially when considering that many of these consequences are preventable in the first place.

This article examines how constant nurse understaffing impacts the quality of care and safety of patient and nurse wellbeing, as well as compromises healthcare facilities’ reputation. With many of these medical events being preventable, this article examines how effective recruitment and retention strategies reduce understaffing and promote wellbeing for better patient outcomes.

Understaffing affects nurses, patients, and brand reputation

Poor Patient Outcomes

Under the stress of time pressures and handling a greater number of tasks due to limited manpower, nurses may often take safety workarounds in order to manage increased workloads. These workarounds are often considered a necessary solution to cope with the disproportionate workloads assigned to understaffed nurses. Such safety shortcuts can increase the instances of medical errors and injuries, leading to a decrease quality of care. Indiana University and Purdue University’s study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing consistently identified the link between greater workaround practices and increased instances of near misses – events that potentially lead to medical accidents and injuries.

Furthermore, added workloads, greater stress and increased burnout affect a nurse’s ability to focus or remember tasks at hand, which in turn can lead to medication errors or decreased patient surveillance. Such stressors also lead nurses to rush their care between patients, resulting in decreased quality of care, leaving room for medical errors or near misses.

medical errors and nurse understaffing
healthcare associated infections and nurse understaffing

Nurse Wellbeing

Nurse wellbeing is also jeopardized in instances of inadequate staffing. Greater workloads, demanding hours, and increased patient ratios lead to burnout and exhaustion. These physical, emotional, and mental stressors can manifest into health issues ranging from depression to hypertension. Additionally, experiencing poor patient outcomes or instances of medical errors can intensify the stress nurses face.

 

Brand Reputation

Poor patient experiences resulting from medical negligence leads to patient dissatisfaction. With hospitals increasingly becoming patient-centered focused, poor patient outcomes and negative reviews can damage a healthcare facilities’ reputation and credibility. Known poor work environments may further deter healthcare professionals from joining facilities. Furthermore, medical errors resulting from negligence can financially be costly to healthcare facilities. Prioritizing nurse wellbeing and patient outcomes is essential for organization’s reputation.

The Solution

1. Effective Recruitment

To alleviate excessive workloads of shorthanded staff, effective recruitment is a must. Many healthcare facilities are turning to contingent staff through the use of service providers or vendor management systems to hire quality candidates efficiently and quickly. Contingent labor is becoming an essential and competitive asset in the current workforce landscape. When done correctly, contingent labor is cost-effective and bridges the skills gap demand currently experienced by healthcare facilities nationwide.

Advantages of contingent labor for understaffed facilities chart
Whereas a service provider may oversee the entire staffing and vendor process on an organization’s behalf, a vendor management system gives healthcare organizations greater autonomy and control over the recruitment cycle. Both have overlapping advantages in minimizing understaffing.
MSP and VMS services in helping nurse understaffing

2. Effective Retention

Overcoming turnover is a multifaceted approach that necessitates assessing different areas of your workforce strategy. Retention tactics are highly effective in reducing turnover and promoting retention. Tactics include:

  • Reframe work environments that value employee mental, physical and emotional health
  • Create flexible schedules
  • Craft effective retention strategies alongside employees
  • Assess company culture and values
  • Redefine management practices

 

How can StaffBot help?

StaffBot’s full-service workforce solutions are crafted to meet the specific needs and nuances unique to each healthcare facility. Whether your organization is looking for full managed services to take over the workload or you’re wanting full autonomy with expert guidance, StaffBot works side by side with your organization to successfully achieve your staffing objectives, together. Consult us for guidance on crafting your contingent workforce strategy.

Find Out How We Can Help

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If you’re ready to find out more about how StaffBot can help energize your workers, your customers, and
your business with a different experience, let’s talk.

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