How Telehealth Affects Nurse Staffing

How Telehealth Affects Nurse Staffing

Shane Parker, RN
Co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer

Across the U.S., hospital systems are adopting telehealth programs at a rapid pace. Telehealth allows providers to care for larger numbers of patients in a cost-effective manner, improve continuity of care and take their high-quality care into the community – especially to rural populations. No wonder healthcare organizations are jumping aboard the telehealth train.

Nurses usually play a role at the forefront of any telehealth initiative adopted by a health system, and as a CNO you may wonder how this new frontier might affect nurse staffing. It’s important to understand your staffing needs might change during the initial implementation and then again as the program matures and stabilizes. To effectively manage nurse staffing in the age of telehealth, try these three strategies.

1. Look to nimble staffing software for help

As your organization ramps up a telehealth initiative, you initially may find you need more nurses than before on the units where telehealth is being deployed. That was the experience at Cleveland Clinic when it implemented telehealth for wound care on a surgical intensive care unit. As the organization noted in an article: “Fitting the telehealth equipment into [the nurses’] workflow was tricky, and often required greater numbers of nurses [within the SICU] to make the equipment function properly and be helpful (such as having one nurse to maneuver the monitor, another to hold the patient and one to complete the patient assessment).”

You should anticipate a similar situation when rolling out a telehealth initiative. To ensure ample staffing on those units, tap ShiftWizard’s functionality that enables you to see – and float – qualified nurses across the entire organization easily. That way, you can fluidly respond to a telehealth unit’s urgent request for more nurses, and you can reallocate staff in minutes to maintain high standards of patient care in every department.

2. Make it easy for nurses to swap shifts

It’s probably a given that rolling out a telehealth initiative will create a bit of flux in your staffing matrix at the beginning. That temporary instability can potentially cost your nurse managers time in trying to fill shifts, and you could see an uptick in costs associated with the use of agency nurses to maintain adequate ratios.

You can address both of those issues with ShiftWizard. By making it easy for your nurses to swap shifts on their own, you reduce the amount of time a nurse manager must invest in wrestling with the staffing matrix and, instead, enable her to focus her energies on supporting the telehealth implementation. Furthermore, allowing nurses to swap shifts in-house means you’ll more fully utilize your existing staff instead of paying for agency nurses to fill schedule gaps.

3. Give all qualified nurses access to telehealth shifts

As you implement a telehealth program, be sure to make those shifts available to all qualified nurses. Not only might your nurses appreciate the opportunity to learn the new skills required to perform tasks via video conference, but telehealth holds the promise of reducing nurse burnout, which might improve your nurse retention numbers.

Take, for example, the concept of a dedicated telehealth shift that takes place within a secluded office in the hospital. Your telehealth nurse might triage or treat patients using only a computer monitor – no walking the halls, lifting patients or performing other physically rigorous tasks. Or, your telehealth nurses might spend an entire shift providing remote patient monitoring across multiple campuses from a conference room. These nurses may interact with physicians and nurses on the floor in various ICUs, for instance, again without the physical demands of bedside nursing. By making it easy for qualified nurses to book telehealth shifts through ShiftWizard, you can give your staff some control over how much bedside nursing they do, which can reduce their work stress and foster their loyalty over the long term.

There’s no doubt telehealth is here to stay. The question is how to manage your nursing staff during implementation and onward. By using nimble scheduling software like ShiftWizard, you can maintain adequate staffing without relying on agency nurses or burning out your current staff. That’s a big win for everyone.

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Healthcare Staff Scheduling. Developed by Nurses for Nurses.

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