In today’s environment, preventing the spread of infectious diseases to caregivers is a major concern in hospitals and healthcare facilities. While traditionally commonplace in healthcare, the heightened awareness has only been compounded by the highly-contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus. However, infectious contagions are not the only risk doctors, nurses, and other caregivers face. Heightened anxiety levels in our society today, due to the virus and other illnesses, may compound some of these other safety issues.
The healthcare industry is confronted with a number of workplace safety issues. According to the U.S. Census Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 percent of nurses report that they have been physically assaulted while on the job, while OSHA found that over 50 percent of registered nurses and nursing students have been verbally abused. According to the CDC, nurses are more often the target of workplace violence than any other category of healthcare workers.
In many areas of the hospital environment, nurse staffing shortages have also amped up levels of workplace stress and overwork—two issues that nurses named as their top health concerns in an American Nurses Association survey. With fewer hands-on staff available during each shift, nurses are often at greater risk for injuries and accidents when moving or assisting patients.
As caregivers, nurses, and clinicians strive to meet the demands and complexities of day-to-day patient care, their safety is paramount to healthcare organizations and the patients who rely on them. Healthcare organizations and government must work together to create a safe, positive and empowering work environment that will ultimately lead to better outcomes for everyone.
With these factors in mind, how can mobile technology help hospitals and other healthcare organizations improve safety while also improving clinician performance, patient care, and outcomes?
A number of studies emphasize three key areas of importance for staff safety and satisfaction: nursing leadership and teamwork, staff support and education, and safety-driven technology. Following are a few ways technology can support each of these.
- Leadership and teamwork: The National Database of Nursing Quality (NDNQI) conducted a large-scale survey of more than 315,000 RNs in 888 U.S. hospitals to identify practical recommendations to improve work environments. One clear success driver is strong teamwork between nursing leadership and staff at the care-unit level. The study found that the best results occur when leaders strive to create a work environment with essential resources, tools and services needed to achieve high-quality nurse and patient outcomes.
By implementing the right solutions and technology, healthcare organizations can help nurses deliver better quality care to patients while addressing critical pain points that can limit their performance and increase on-the-job risks. Handheld devices such as purpose-built smartphones with geo-location technology, for instance, can help managers track and monitor staff, inform scheduling, and assist nurses in having appropriate assistance to address patient care needs.
- Staff support and education: Over the past decade, hospitals and other providers have been focused on improving clinical processes and team communications and collaboration. Mobile technology has played a major role in enabling these shifts through integration with critical systems including nurse call systems, electronic health records and workflow-aligned applications, providing tools that help clinical caregivers save time, eliminate errors and make more informed decisions at the point of care.
Moving forward, healthcare organizations will need to continue building on these capabilities to empower clinicians in new ways to enhance their skills, knowledge and confidence on the job. By expanding secure access to on-demand learning and other virtual tools via mobile communications for the patient at the bedside, technology can help minimize patient fears and frustrations while clarifying care needs and instructions, promoting better healing and more successful outcomes. Healthcare organizations can also utilize mobile devices to provide training and educational resources for caregivers to enhance their clinical skills and knowledge.
- Safety-driven technology: Ultimately, creating a safer work environment comes down to having reliable safety measures in place to support and protect clinical caregivers when dangerous situations arise. Advanced mobile solutions come equipped with safety-focused features such as easy-to-activate duress buttons that instantly connect the user with security professionals if staff feel threatened. Real-time location services and activity sensors alert team leaders to potential problems by detecting if a nurse is running or not moving, either of which could indicate that he/she is in danger. These can be integrated into an organization’s existing systems and emergency protocols to fortify protections for patients and clinical caregivers. With nearly 80 percent of nurses reporting recent attacks or assaults on the job, these and other safety-driven capabilities provide added safety for both staff and patients.
Hospitals and healthcare organizations have already made investments in technology. Major events, like the COVID-19 pandemic, highlight the importance of advanced communication technology to increase provider, clinician, and other caregiver safety.
Bill Foster is Director, Healthcare Business Development at Spectralink, a leader in enterprise mobility solutions. He has 13+ years in the healthcare industry, is co-author of the book, “Coaching for Peak Employee Performance”, and is married to an RN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org