Ensuring Continuity of Care Amid Today’s Nursing Shortage

Updated on July 1, 2024
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A critical nursing shortage is on the horizon. In fact, the pandemic led to the exit of 100,000 nurses, and by 2027 nearly 900,000 registered nurses (RNs) are expected to leave the profession, representing a significant portion of the nursing workforce.

Many RNs are now opting to shift into less taxing work environments, ranging from Botox injection clinics to piercing shops. Others are choosing to retire rather than continue serving as nurses. Whatever the reason, this mass departure places a massive strain on care facilities across the United States at a critical point in time. The American Nurses Association now estimates that more than 1 million new nurses will need to join the workforce over the next few years to prevent a critical nursing shortage. 

While healthcare facilities work on long-term strategies, it’s also vital that we explore immediate solutions to ensure that patients receive optimal care even amid staffing shortages. In the process, these solutions will also support nurses as they care for those who need it most. These solutions include:

Boosting Certified Peer Mentors

Studies have found that 72 percent of nurse leaders are burnt out in the wake of the pandemic, which has prompted over 30 percent of them to consider leaving their hospital jobs. This opens a door for peer mentors to step in and serve as the crucial support system these professionals need to feel empowered and looked after in their role.

By taking on non-urgent care items, peer mentors can help fill in the gaps in nurses’ work, giving them the time they need to focus on critical patient care. For example, suppose a nurse can only follow up with patients once monthly. Peer mentors can offer proactive support in between those appointments, ensuring patients have access to everything from medication to transportation for doctor’s appointments. 

By removing barriers to care, patients are more likely to adhere to their care plans, leading to better health outcomes in the long-run. This is a positive feedback loop: when patients have better health outcomes, that means less visits to the ER and more time on nurses’ schedules.

Integrating Technology

Technology can assist in addressing administrative and care burdens brought about by the nursing shortage. Recent innovations in the healthcare space help nurses stay on top of all the patients under their care: thanks to automated alerts, for example, they can respond quickly to a patient whose health has taken a sudden turn or ensure other patients are stable without spending hours on rounds. These implementations also ensure continuity of patient care by consistently tracking things like patient consultations and visits, medication dispensations, and vital signs.

Innovations have also significantly reduced the burden on in-person staff; AI and automation, for example, streamline administrative tasks like scheduling and patient monitoring while ensuring nurses are able to provide patients with timely care. Some organizations have even started implementing chatbots, who can provide temporary companionship for people with mental health concerns when appointments with therapists or doctors aren’t immediately available. This, in turn, frees up healthcare professionals to focus more on essential duties that cannot be replicated by a machine.

Expanding the implementation of universal electronic health records could also reduce strain on nurses, as it eliminates the time and effort needed for nurses to gather health histories from every patient. Functional and effective recordkeeping not only makes the process more streamlined for nurses, but can make care more reliable for patients, too.

Scaling Existing Solutions

To sustain their existing nursing workforce and address the looming nursing shortage, it’s essential that healthcare organizations examine their existing solutions and come up with strategies and roadmaps to scale those solutions further. This includes expanding nurse training programs and concurrent programs like peer mentorship to increase the number of entering graduates, as well as incentivizing retention through competitive salaries and benefits. 

Organizations and their leaders should also examine their career advancement frameworks and ensure there are active, clear, accessible pathways to training and opportunities; a recent survey found that 32 percent of RNs considered leaving their direct patient-care positions owing to a lack of advancement opportunities.

Now more than ever, ensuring that the nursing shortage doesn’t negatively impact the patient experience and the remaining nurses is essential. Patients need care regardless of staffing shortages; as healthcare facilities continue to strategize how best to retain healthcare professionals while recruiting new ones, there are technology-based and peer-related implementations that can be made now to have a positive impact on both the nursing and patient experience.

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Cindy Jordan
CEO at Pyx Health

After witnessing a family member’s mental health crisis, Cindy co-founded Pyx Health with Anne Jordan in 2017. As the CEO, Cindy continues to fuel innovation and growth. She leads the company on its mission to effectively address the health crisis of loneliness and social isolation.