By Bryan Dickerson, Senior Director of Healthcare Workforce Solutions at Hospital IQ
Nursing shortages and turnover are not unfamiliar to hospitals and health systems, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, those numbers have been increasing. Paired with the rising rate of nurse burnout, nursing leaders and staffing coordinators have had to adopt better strategies to more efficiently and effectively staff in an instant to foster a less stressful staff environment and meet fluctuating demands for patient care.
Predictive staffing solutions allow unit leaders and staffing offices to gain access to additional tools, such as a census forecast, that will help them proactively plan for future volumes, leading to better outcomes for staff and patients alike. These data-driven insights allow the staff to make more informed decisions on their staffing plans and utilization, resulting in nurses being inherently more satisfied, patient care improved, and the organization’s bottom line being better supported.
With the help of advanced technology, the healthcare industry has made significant strides in recent years towards becoming a more data-driven, proactive industry. However, a huge opportunity remains for so many hospitals and health systems that have not been using advancing technology to their advantage when it comes to staffing. For example, when last-minute adjustments are so often needed, staffing teams begin to make reactive, crisis-driven decisions, but with the help of predictive analytics, staffing changes can be made calmly, efficiently, and with as little disruption as possible.
As COVID cases continue to spike as variants emerge and vaccinations ensue, predicting precise, data-informed staffing needs is necessary for hospitals to adequately meet care demands and avoid further turnover from frustrated nurses.
Harsh Reality of Reactive Decision-Making
Without a predictive staffing solution, staffing leaders lack insight into the future patient census, forcing them to make uninformed, panic-driven decisions that can result in staffing shortages or overstaffing. Not only is this financially inefficient for hospital and health systems, but both overstaffing and understaffing also creates unsatisfied nurses and poor patient outcomes.
Staffing leaders are reactively making scheduling decisions with a crisis-first mindset. Unfortunately, chaos can ensue when staffing decisions lack the appropriate data, and the health system is not staffed appropriately. Staff will be pushed beyond their limits, working over their capacity, or staffing teams are frantically searching to fill last-minute shifts.
From reactive to proactive staffing
Although the current method of reactive staffing has long sufficed when it comes to simply surviving a shift, it can’t be a long-term solution. Data-driven insights and census forecasting create increased visibility for leaders and coordinators to understand staffing needs completely.
With predictive analytics, staffing teams can accurately predict a hospital’s patient census days in advance, giving them the ability to meet patient demand when and where it arises, with ease.
Insight to future patient surges can help teams appropriately staff and allow nurses to take corrective action at precisely the right time and unit. Using technology to provide greater visibility across the enterprise will enable teams to collaborate and identify additional resources when they’re most needed while fostering a transparency culture. Fewer last-minute changes will significantly improve staff satisfaction, all while containing labor costs.
As the uncertainty around surges in patient demand and pandemic-related care continues to grow with the new variants, hospitals and health systems cannot afford to delay the adoption of predictive analytics as the long-term solution to their staffing challenges. Not only will staff satisfaction increase with the adoption of a predictive staffing solution, but teams can also manage costs of labor, all while delivering the highest quality care and experience to their patients.
Bryan Dickerson is the Senior Director, Workforce for Hospital IQ, the leading provider of predictive hospital operations software. Bryan has worked for healthcare workforce management for over 30 years with extensive experience in time and attendance, scheduling, patient classification, payroll/HR, and talent management. He is a thought leader and champion for bringing healthcare labor management to the modern world by focusing on making life better for those providing care to the consumers of care.