Staffing shortage remains a grave concern for several industries right now, and healthcare isn’t an exception. Recently, the New York Governor appointed 100+ National Guard medics to assist the state’s understaffed nursing facilities. Since 75% of long-term health centers reported “worsening conditions” in 2021 due to the dreadful scarcity of nursing practitioners, the pandemic. Healthcare facilities nationwide were suffering from decreased retention rates even before COVID, with experts predicting a million RNs to leave or retire from this profession by 2030! So, why does this lack of workers affect the quality of caregiving in nursing homes? Let’s discuss its impact on patient outcomes.
How Does This Nursing Shortage Affect Patient Outcomes?
Our clinics, hospitals, and nursing facilities struggle with treating COVID patients while understaffed and begging for an increased workforce. However, the BLS calculated that employment in healthcare had suffered 524,000 losses since February 2020. And four-fifths of these lost jobs were associated with the nursing sector alone! The healthcare institution needs to resolve the nursing turnover problem because of its negative impact on patient outcomes. So, how can managers produce a better-skilled workforce?
A cost-effective solution involves leveraging distance learning to boost health workers’ medical acumen. They can now pursue a terminal degree in nursing to improve their learning and advance their impact on health care despite the staffing shortage. Earning DNP degrees will make the nursing workforce versatile and capable of treating their clients in nursing homes. This digitally-acquired education may also reduce the severe impact of the staffing shortage in healthcare facilities, some of which have been stated here:
More burnout cases:
Burnout’s always remained a problem for health workers before the pandemic. But COVID seriously affected the mental health of our nursing practitioners. Moreover, the staffing shortage contributes to increased burnout among RNs, rendering them unfit to serve their patients. People being admitted to nursing facilities require constant caregiving from the workforce, and nurses with mental health issues can’t focus on their medical duties properly. It severely undermines patient outcomes.
Worse turnover rates:
Surveys show that 18% of health workers have quit during the pandemic. Familiar faces are significant to nursing home patients! When their caregivers quit after a few months, it can seriously impact the client’s mental health. So, this “change” brings down the productivity of recruits as patients are reluctant to adjust to another person when they’ve become accustomed to dealing with their actual caregiver. That’s how the nursing shortage in caregiving facilities has affected their medical services.
Increased patient mortality:
Experts have connected the nursing shortage to increased patient mortality in nursing homes. Some consider “patient mortality” the primary symptom of understaffed long-term caregiving facilities in the country. As a result of the labor shortage, caregivers are overworked and unable to provide essential attention to their elderly clients. Today, adding one full-time nurse per 1,000 patients can decrease mortality by 4.3 percent! In a nutshell, residents require more nurses to stay alive.
Decreased patient satisfaction:
According to statistics, 90% of nurses believe they don’t have time to support patients emotionally. When caregivers aren’t available for comfort, it makes agent clients dissatisfied. Thus, understaffed nursing homes create an overworked workforce that can’t respond to patients in a timely fashion. It seems essential to learn that nursing home residents want caregivers to be available emotionally. With fewer nurses for each patient, residents feel unattended that causes their loneliness to grow.
More medical mistakes:
Besides helping residents with daily activities (cooking/undressing), caregivers at nursing homes also help clients with their medical problems. On the other hand, understaffed facilities are more likely to make mistakes due to a caretaker’s negligence. These mistakes may endanger the survival of aged clients, thereby indirectly increasing patient mortality. Managers must address this problem by boosting the workforce’s educational qualifications and influencing policy-making to address staffing problems.
Strained team dynamics:
An overworked workforce damages teamwork in long-term caregiving facilities, thereby straining the relationship between coworkers and rendering them incapable of collaborating. Many nursing home patients may not receive proper attention when their caregivers aren’t cooperating. The long-term health center’s environment gets polluted by tension, forcing families to take their patients elsewhere. That’s how understaffed institutions can’t function properly – especially during COVID.
Higher chances of abuse/neglect:
Patients’ families are often cautious about the cases of abuse/neglect rampant in nursing homes. An expert survey shows that one-fourth of residents have suffered from at least one instance of neglect at these long-term caregiving facilities. And the staffing shortage in the health sector seems likely to be why these incidents have become so common today. When people are overworked at work, they’re more likely to lose their temper. And aged clients are easier targets for angry nurses.
How do we resolve this problem of nursing shortage?
Reading about these problems compels people to question how we resolve this dilemma? Today, we have experts claiming that COVID has made long-term caregiving facilities lose 220,000 positions since the start of this pandemic. Several factors have contributed to the nursing shortage. We have 70,000+ RNs annually retiring, because of which soon this staffing shortage may become another pandemic. So, here are some solutions to address the workforce deficiency in nursing homes for better health results:
- Paying higher wages: It’s estimated that almost 50% of nurses are dissatisfied with their wages, so increasing their salaries can motivate more RNs to stay. This strategy can reduce the number of nurses who quit annually. Also, offering signing bonuses makes more folks join this vocation.
- Hire nurses seasonally: Nursing homes dealing with an overworked workforce should attempt “seasonal hiring” to remove the excessive burden off nurses. Getting some temps/interns at the institution during holidays can help you accumulate enough workers to serve your aged clients.
- Targeting other groups: Students from non-white backgrounds constitute a minority of nursing degree candidates. So, motivating more members of minority groups can help managers address the staffing shortage. They must boost their efforts to recruit more RNs for the future.
- Leverage the technology: Nursing homes shouldn’t forget the importance of technology in addressing staffing issues. Using tech solutions can help with scheduling to reduce the potential of overworked nurses. Also, it can help RNs to serve their aged clients properly.
- Educating your workers: As we’ve mentioned before, offering continued learning options may help your workers become capable of dealing with this problem. Nurses can learn how to cater to elderly patients’ needs with better education. So, managers can invest in nurses’ education.
The pandemic made staffing shortages a matter of concern for long-term caregiving facilities all over the country. An AARP analysis shows that one-fifth of nursing homes nationwide have complained about the lack of caregivers every month since the summer of 2020. How does the nursing shortage affect patient outcomes in nursing homes? It leads to higher morbidity/mortality rates and more medical mistakes made by the staff. Caregivers suffer from burnout, so they can’t serve their elderly clients properly.
So, what’s the solution? We have explained that pursuing advanced degrees in nursing (DNPs are some great examples) can help an overworked workforce remain productive. Furthermore, offering higher pay to nursing home caregivers may persuade them to stay, addressing the staffing shortage. When we have a trained workforce treating your patients, fewer incidents of abuse/neglect happen. That’s why you can maintain healthy health outcomes today.