What You Need to Know About Nurse Staffing Issues
How Does the Nurse Shortage Affect the Healthcare System?
It’s obvious that more nurses means better care, so why is the nursing shortage such a significant issue? The shortage has started many conversations about how nurse staffing issues can be solved. Strategies have been developed and laws have been passed — but the shortage is still an issue.
The nursing shortage takes a toll on just about every level of the healthcare system too. From the overall healthcare facility to the patients, the effects of the nursing shortage are preventing facilities from achieving the high standard of care that they’re known for. It’s also making it difficult for nurses to find satisfaction in their jobs.
How can you tell if the nursing shortage is impacting your healthcare facility? For patients, how much they feel the effects of the shortage depends on the facility they’re in. The shortage is felt the most within nursing homes due to the way that they are staffed. In nursing homes, nurses are placed under more pressure and given a greater level of responsibility. Their staffs are smaller and they don’t have physicians or physician assistants to help take some of the strain off of caring for patients. If they need to take leave, it’s more difficult to coordinate. What does this mean for patients? In one study, researchers found that, in nursing homes, it led to a 13 percent rise in mortality rate in patients 85 and older.
While hospitals face similar challenges, researchers didn’t find any changes in the mortality rate, but they did find a 21 percent chance that a patient would be readmitted, and for some specialties, it was even higher. Patients are also not going to feel like they’re getting the care they deserve. They might have to wait longer for someone to tend to them, or even attempt to do things on their own, like getting up and going to the bathroom, because a nurse takes too long to come.
On the nurses end, the shortage means that they’ll have to take on more patients, work longer hours, or even work voluntary overtime. They might start feeling like they’re overworked or are struggling to perform at their best because they’re dealing with more patients than one person should be able to handle well. They might be asked to “float” instead of working only in the unit where they’re experienced. This can easily lead to them having low morale, looking for employment elsewhere, or even making mistakes that they wouldn’t otherwise.
For facilities, the problems that nurses and patients face due to short staffing culminates into overarching issues. When dealing with short staff, a facility might have to transfer patients or close the unit to new admissions. Procedures might even have to be postponed for when they have enough hands. Their solution to the problem is to bring in nurses from staffing agencies to help fill the gaps — but this costs a lot of money. And on top of that, facilities can’t ensure that the nurses they’re bringing in are experienced or dedicated to the work that they’re doing.
What Nurses Can Do to Manage the Shortage
So, if you’re a nurse, what can you do? You’ve likely felt the impact of the nursing shortage in one way or another. On one hand, the silver lining is that there is likely work available in just about any facility if you have enough experience. But on the other, managing your desired work-life balance can be extremely difficult.
While you can’t manage how the facility where you work handles their staffing, you can manage the roles that you choose to work in. If you’re not already an RN, one way you can gain leverage in your career is by taking the next step in your education. Or if you’re working your way toward your BSN, becoming an RN will help you gain more experience and ability to be more flexible in your career.
Another tactic you can look at is picking up per diem shifts. When you work per diem, you get to choose your own schedule, and new technology like NurseDash can help you obtain shifts at top facilities when you want. NurseDash is a healthcare marketplace that allows clinicians of any level to sign up and search for open shifts in their area. Our platform currently serves the Texas and Ohio markets — and more are coming soon. Interested in how you can get involved? Sign up today to start searching shifts in your area.