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Disrupting the Status Quo: Staffing Based on Evidence

“Meaningful and sustainable change to traditional staffing models is a moral imperative that requires urgent collaborative action.”

That call to action from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses reminds us all that when it comes to staffing in healthcare, the status quo is no longer okay. We now have decades of research and first-hand experience that confirms we can have a positive impact on patient and workforce outcomes by changing the way we think about, model, design, fund and implement staffing policies and practices.

One sure tactic for doing so is adopting new technology, and specifically staffing software and applications, that can dramatically improve how we schedule staff.

For example, modern scheduling tools can enable:

  • Better decision making. Staffing managers have at their fingertips the data they need to make quick, accurate decisions when it comes to filling shifts. Leading solutions offer intuitive dashboards that offer full visibility and real-time insights so you can act fast.
  • Access from anywhere. Cloud technology and well-designed mobile apps enable managers and staff to access, manage and communicate about shifts from their mobile phones.
  • A more collaborative culture. Managers and staff work together to fill open shifts. As a result, manager/staff relationships improve, staff satisfaction rises, and turnover falls.
  • Less wasted time. Managers spend less time stressing over, completing and managing the schedule, and more time focused on making improvements that truly impact patient and workforce outcomes — and the bottom line.

All that isn’t to say that we are ignoring the realities of the healthcare industry. Administrators and managers are under intense pressure to control costs, while addressing insurers, changes in payer rules, unions, legislation, labor shortages, rising labor costs and more.

Still, with staffing being such a complex issue, it’s wise to look at solutions that can ease that complexity, while also helping organizations to heed the AACN’s call to action and drive better outcomes through simplified scheduling and improved collaboration.

 

About the Author:

Award-winning nurse leader Kathy Douglas, RN, MPH, has been in healthcare workforce strategy for over 20 years. She has authored dozens of published articles and presented on all aspects of staffing in healthcare. Kathy is also a filmmaker and directed the internationally distributed film, NURSES: If Florence Could See Us Now.

staff retention

3 Staff Retention Strategies You Need to Start Using

As of 2017, the average rate of healthcare staff turnover was 20.6% – a number calculated out of 11 million employees in an array of different healthcare markets and job functions.

From 2017 to now, the healthcare market has only gotten more competitive, which gives employees an advantage while putting pressure on employers to prioritize staff retention. Every time a person leaves your organization, it comes at a high cost. Between the overtime it takes to fill in shifts, the stress that under-staffing puts on your team and the cost of onboarding new talent, you risk losing a significant amount of time and money each year if you don’t focus on staff retention.

Here are three simple, yet effective staff retention strategies to utilize.

1. Continue onboarding beyond the first week   

The onboarding process spans well beyond a new hire’s first week. It’s a process that should be carefully thought out and include an equal level of engagement from supervisors and the new employee.

A healthy onboarding period lasts about 60-90 days. This gives new hires a chance to truly get a feel for the organization. It’s their time to take on all the job functions within their role, get to know colleagues and present fresh ideas to their managers. From a leadership perspective, 60-90 days is a great time to learn a new hire’s habits. It provides a glimpse of how often an individual may show up early or come in late, call out or pick up extra shifts and/or earn recognition.

In terms of staff retention, think of a new hire’s first few months as the company’s first impression. You may have won them over during the hiring process, but you must ensure that the day to day operations and actions of others reflect what was discussed in interviews. Otherwise, you risk creating a costly disconnect.

2. Invest in professional growth

Don’t forget about a new hire once they’ve gotten settled in. In fact, make professional growth and development a priority for all the people you oversee.

This may mean you become more proactive about how employees meet continued education requirements. It might be the reason you start having more frequent one on one meetings or informally checking in with your team. Other growth opportunities include:

  • Inviting/sending staff to conferences
  • Bringing in industry experts for training opportunities
  • Offering leadership development and clear pathways for advancement

Talk to your team before you roll out any of these development initiatives. You want to make sure you offer what they really want, rather than risk acting on a false assumption.

3. Make a habit of coaching and recognizing others

Sometimes, encouraging employee growth is as simple as making a genuine connection with them. Culture is a big reason why people stay or leave their organization. You can offer all the training and development you want, but it has to be matched with a genuine concern and interest in your people in order to be effective.

Make it a point to recognize staff more. This can be something you start doing at the end of team meetings or you can develop a special retention program. It can have a competitive spin on it and recognitions can range from verbal shout-outs to special tokens of appreciation. Whatever initiative you come up with, make sure it’s received well. Don’t hesitate to adjust as needed and continue improving the program once you have a good recognition system in place.

There’s one more retention strategy worth mentioning: gather and learn from employee retention data. As you work to implement the strategies mentioned above, measure their impact. Notice what your team responds best to and find ways to build on these initiatives. The ROI of higher performance, more staff engagement and a longer average employee tenure will be well worth the time and money you invest in your team.

information overload

How to Prevent Information Overload in the Workplace

Between gathering and verifying patient data, keeping up with new regulations and managing the day-to-day operations of your organization, there’s a good chance your staff is experiencing information overload.

At some point, important details will slip through the cracks and miscommunication will become more frequent. This can lead to under-performance within your organization, as well as an increase in mistakes and staff burnout.

Luckily, this doesn’t have to be the case for your team.

Here are five things you can do to better prevent information overload.

1. Break down your emails

Most team communication emails cram updates, action steps and requests all into one message. To point out the “main ideas,” different words and phrases within one email may be bolded, underlined, highlighted or written in a color other than black. When all these differentiators are mixed together, staff members are left having to discern what information is the most important.

This kind of confusion can be avoided if you make it an organizational standard to send clean emails. Limit the important details within one email to two or three key points – ideally, they should relate to one another.

This may increase the number of emails you send to your team, but it will also increase how well information is understood and retained.

2. Make patient data easier to manage

Another tip to ease information overload is to simplify how you gather and manage patient data. This may include:

  • Offering new patients the option to fill out forms online
  • Giving patients access to a portal with all their payment and treatment information
  • Regular staff training on coding procedures and new rules and regulations regarding patient information
  • Providing continued training on how to improve patient interactions to better get to the root of their condition and explain their role in treatment more clearly

There’s often a gap between the information that a nurse/physician writes down at the start of treatment, the information another healthcare professional utilizes during treatment and how well a patient understands their condition. Aim to close this gap by being more clear and consistent. It will transform the kind of care your staff is able to offer and significantly enhance the patient experience.

3. Create a better patient data sharing process

If you often send patient referrals to other providers, or if most of your patients are referrals, you may want to improve how you share patient data. The more effective you are at communicating patient information, the more successful treatments will be.

When miscommunication occurs between providers, it causes a costly inconvenience for patients. Individuals are left having to track down their healthcare information from various offices before their treatment can move forward. This delays care, hinders quality and can increase a patient’s risk for other conditions to occur.

But, simplifying how you share and receive patient information can make their experience much better and relieve some stress from your team.

4. Minimize out-of-work texts and calls

How often do you find yourself texting staff members to fill in for shifts? Do you have a habit of calling people on their day off?

Such communication is highly detrimental. It doesn’t give your staff a chance to unwind from their work. It makes them more likely to burn out or leave your organization.

If you have an immediate need to communicate, do so over email or via your staff scheduling portal. Calls and texts make sense during emergencies, but most of the time, they just contribute to the information overload your staff experiences every day – on and off the clock.

5. Ask for staff input

The final way to prevent information overload in your organization is to gather feedback from your team. Ask them how they feel about the current communication standards in place – both amongst the team and with patients. See what they’d like to have more training on and set aside time to come together as an organization. Staff engagement makes it much easier to eliminate confusion and to push forward new ideas. This also ensures you don’t overlook anything that needs improvement regarding the expectations you’ve set for your team and the patient data they work with every day.

Healthcare professionals are expected to provide personal, attentive care to everyone they treat, to drive innovation within their organization and adapt to industry changes. They can’t do this effectively if they’re always juggling information. Keep things clear and concise and watch how well your team – and their performance – responds.