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Scheduling/Staffi ng Management

An end in sight for nurse staffi ng nightmares

More hospitals are equipping staff with the right tools to simplify scheduling, improve morale and provide better patient care.

By Robin Stimac T

here are many ways to combat the nursing short- age, but most of them are not long-term solu- tions. To truly resolve the issues that stem from the nursing shortage, it is critically important for healthcare organizations to provide staff with the right tech- nology to maximize resources and skilled labor. It is possible to make the most of internal resources before relying on overtime or agency usage. With the right approach, nurse satisfaction should grow and patient care should improve.

As more people become insured and the baby-boomer generation matures, it will become even more critical to have the right staff with the right skills in place to meet the increased demand for health services.

In real estate, the hot phrase is “location, location, lo- cation.” Similarly, in healthcare, the focus is often “labor, labor, labor.” In recent years, healthcare organizations have experienced a widespread nursing shortage, while trying to control costs and mitigate the impact on quality patient care. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that job open- ings in the nursing fi eld will grow by 22 percent nationally in less than 10 years.

There are a few factors affecting this nursing shortage. An aging nursing population: The average age of registered nurses (RNs) is 46, according to the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses released in September 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This report also found that “older RNs comprised 44.7 percent of the total RN population in 2008, compared with 41.1 percent in 2004 and 33.4 percent in 2000. The percentage of RNs who were 60 years and older increased from 13.6 percent in 2004 to 15.5 percent in 2008.” With the recent economic downturn, many nurses who were on the verge of retiring continued working, as people across the country found their retirement funds were

18 April 2011

negatively impacted. Instead of retiring into an uncertain economic future, many decided to wait out the reces- sion by working. These nurses will undoubtedly look to retirement as the economy bounces back, intensifying the nursing shortage.

Nursing schools are recruiting and educating a younger population of nurses to help alleviate this issue, but the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that current enrollment levels are “not suffi cient to meet the projected demand for nurses.” The AACN points to shortages in nursing faculty and resources that only compound the problem, with over 54,000 qualifi ed nursing school applicants turned away from nursing schools in 2009.

Economic concerns: The current uncertain economic landscape has forced hospitals and health systems to focus on improving their operational margins and cutting costs. Pressure from healthcare reform is forcing healthcare providers to fi nd extra monies to fund projects aimed at achieving meaningful use and other patient care initia- tives. Healthcare costs are also escalating at unsustainable levels as the price for prescription drugs and new medical technologies rises. This all adds up to a heightened focus on operational improvement efforts. Increased demand for health services: As more people become insured and the baby-boomer generation matures, it will become even more critical to have the right staff with the right skills in place to meet the increased demand for health services.

All these challenges are driving an even greater need for the right mix of labor scheduling and staffi ng. The ability to hire people with the right skills and schedule them where they are most needed is crucial to the success of healthcare organizations. But without the right technology in place, this is nearly impossible.

I recently spent the day with a Lawson Healthcare customer who was considering purchasing Lawson Sched- uling and Staffi ng, a module within Lawson Workforce Management solution. At one point, I asked a staffi ng co- ordinator, “What do you do when you have an open shift? How do you fi ll it?” Her answer was immediate: “I call the

HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY www.healthmgttech.com

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