Can Technology Solve the Nursing Shortage?
If anyone had doubts about how acute the nursing shortage is, a recent Reuters article put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence. Take this example:
“Hospitals nationwide face tough choices when it comes to filling nursing jobs. They are paying billions of dollars collectively to recruit and retain nurses rather than risk patient safety or closing down departments, according to Reuters interviews with more than 20 hospitals, including some of the largest U.S. chains.”
The nursing shortage is a complex problem. Many Baby Boomer nurses are choosing to retire after a lifetime at the bedside. However, a lack of nursing schools and faculty mean there are not enough graduate nurses in the pipeline to replace all of those who are retiring. At the same time, the entire Baby Boomer generation has reached a stage of life where most people begin to require more care for the more complex health problems of advancing age. Meanwhile, healthcare facilities across the country must scramble to maintain adequate nurse staffing – at almost any cost.
But what if technology could ease the nursing shortage, at least for your organization? As it happens, it can.
Nurse scheduling software as a recruiting tool
Of all the incentives you might believe nurses want when choosing an employer, scheduling software might not rise to the top of your list. But in markets where hospitals are competing for staff, ShiftWizard has seen that its software does, indeed, influence where nurses choose to work.
“Not long after completing an installation at a hospital in a medium-sized market in the southeastern U.S., we received a call from a competing hospital there,” said Shane Parker, RN, co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer of ShiftWizard. “The competing hospital told us they began losing staff, and when they investigated the reasons behind this, they learned that nurses wanted to work at the hospital that deployed our scheduling solution – so the competing hospital asked for a demo of the software, too, in hopes of wooing their nurses back.”
When given a choice, many nurses prefer to work at a hospital where they can schedule their own shifts, swap shifts with other nurses at the click of a button and easily float to other departments for extra hours. ShiftWizard accomplishes all of that by providing a transparent solution that allows nurses and managers to quickly view open shifts or even blast out a mass message requesting a shift trade. Putting nurses in control of their own staffing makes a very attractive recruitment incentive.
How nurse self-scheduling can improve retention rates
Offering nurse self-scheduling alone can improve staff retention rates, but outmoded systems that involve spreadsheets or, worse, paper-and-pencil won’t encourage nurses to remain with your organization. Technology like ShiftWizard makes self-scheduling easy and fair, because nurses can book their own shifts from anywhere and from any device. As long as their cell phone works, they can log on to the mobile app and sign up for a shift.
“Our research showed that hospital departments that fully implemented self-scheduling with ShiftWizard saw a seven percent higher retention rate than departments that did not offer self-scheduling,” Parker said.
The software solution also facilitates nurse retention through its innovative shift-swapping feature. “Let’s face it: life happens,” Parker said. “Now if something comes up for a nurse that makes them unable to work a particular day, they can send a mass message to co-workers offering to trade shifts. The nurse can specify the precise shift to be traded, and any of her colleagues can reply with practically the click of a button.”
Better utilizing existing staff means reduced agency nurse expenses
To really optimize your facility’s bottom line, you must maximize utilization of your existing staff. ShiftWizard does that in two ways.
First, the software integrates with all major time and attendance programs. This enables managers to be automatically notified when a particular nurse is about to go into an overtime situation and deploy a different nurse to cover that shift. This functionality saves facilities thousands of dollars in labor costs each year.
Second, managers can view all available shifts in every department. This allows them to redistribute staff based on census needs.
“Let’s say you have a medical floor and a surgical floor,” Parker explains, “and on the medical floor your census has ballooned, leaving you short-staffed, while the surgical floor is about to send nurses home due to low census. ShiftWizard allows managers to analyze this situation and move nurses from the surgical floor to the medical floor as appropriate to safeguard patient care while not paying overtime or needlessly keeping nurses on the clock.”
Solving the nursing shortage one facility at a time
The nursing shortage may not be easing soon, but technology can exert a positive force on the situation one facility at a time. By helping you recruit, retain and sensibly deploy staff, ShiftWizard can help you maintain adequate staffing ratios and save you money in recruitment and retention. It’s a win-win.