Skilled nursing facilities are grappling with significant issues among nurses related to both their physical and mental health. The situation is so dire that, in June, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy predicted a shortage of more than 3 million healthcare workers and 140,000 physicians in the coming years and warned of a pressing need to address the healthcare worker burnout crisis across the country.
In order to protect the industry’s most valuable assets – their nurses – facility owners need to find ways to address the needs of their employees. Providing staff with the tools, technologies, and support that allow nurses to do their jobs without feeling burdened and overwhelmed is critical for their health and happiness – and the health of the overall business. More flexibility and control over shift scheduling, tools to reduce admin burnout, and same-day pay all go a long way in helping to relieve the looming burnout crisis.
But first, how did we get here?
For more than two years, healthcare workers have faced ongoing exposure to Covid and the consequences that come with treating sick patients – including unplanned sick days and time off, unpredictable schedules, inconsistent childcare, and more. In addition to high infection rates and the resulting physical symptoms, workers have experienced higher rates of anxiety, stress, depression, and loneliness, stemming from constant worry about exposing loved ones, emotional and physical exhaustion, and the struggle of balancing their jobs against parental and family obligations.
The impact on workforce population availability has been significant. In November 2021, healthcare employment remained 2.7 percent lower than February 2020, just before the pandemic hit the U.S.
The thinning 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 has already faced staffing and employment pressures as the population of people aged 65 and older has grown at a rapid pace. With the number of seniors needing age-related care expected to reach 73 million by 2030 – up from 31 million in 2011 – the challenge to find and retain quality nurses is daunting.
Three ways to support nurses
Nursing home owners and operators must now take the necessary steps to not only attract and recruit qualified nurses but ensure their existing populations of employees are cared for and protected. They need to see their caregiver staff as their most valuable asset and provide access to the tools and technologies that will allow them to do their jobs without feeling burdened and overwhelmed.
It starts with relieving the mind-numbing administrative chores that seem to dominate the daily lives of workers. According to a study by Wakefield Research, 36 percent of clinicians spend more than half their day dealing with administrative tasks, repeatedly required to log into disparate and disconnected systems to enter ridiculous amounts of data multiple times a day. Seventy-two percent say time spent on these tasks and the volume of manual data have and will continue to increase over the next 12 months. Eliminating laborious administrative tasks alleviates nurses to focus on what they love most about the job: providing quality patient care.
Additionally, nursing home owners must begin to give nurses greater control over their schedules and arm 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, desire greater control over their schedules and the flexibility to work on their time, on their terms. Facilities must arm them with the tools to more easily request shifts when available, implement changes, and request time off – or risk losing them altogether.
Lastly, making sure nurses are paid in a timely fashion to help alleviate any financial concerns or stresses related to chasing payments will go a long way in helping to reduce burnout. Nurses typically work their scheduled shifts and receive their paychecks a week or two later. Even nurses who work on a per-diem basis sometimes need to wait a week or so before getting paid. But there is demand for more immediate payment options. According to Rain, 89.9% of healthcare workers are more satisfied after gaining access to same-day pay. More than 40% of workers would choose same-day pay versus waiting for payday if you gave them the option. Offering same-day pay to nurses allows for more financial freedom and security and goes a long way toward a nurse’s happiness on the job.
A healthier and happier future
The battle for healthcare workers is well underway. Nursing home owners motivated to retain their most valuable assets, maintain their ratings, and ensure an environment where nurses can focus on delivering exceptional patient care is critical in addressing the burnout crisis.
Photo: PeopleImages, Getty Images