Long shifts, the pressure to make quick decisions, and emotional and physical demands are part of a typical workday in nursing. Communication is often fragmented, with many healthcare organizations relying heavily on landline phones, fax machines, and pagers. Over time, communication silos can take their toll, causing nurses to experience burnout.

Burnout surged significantly during the pandemic. Nurses faced the stress of coping with COVID-19 and putting themselves and their loved ones at risk to do their jobs. In many cases, a lack of communication and care team coordination made it difficult for nurses to provide patient care effectively. Those factors add to staffing shortages, which contribute to even more reports of nurse fatigue and burnout.

Some nurses leave their jobs due to burnout, and that costs healthcare organizations money. Consider this fact: Recent staffing data revealed that registered nurse turnover costs the average hospital between $3.6 and $6.5 million each year.

Today’s healthcare systems recognize that curbing burnout is essential to retain nursing team members, manage costs, and achieve quality patient outcomes. It is essential to understand the problems burnout causes and strategies that make it easy to remove stress and simplify communication workflows. 

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The Problem of Nurse Burnout: What the Numbers Have to Say

Research has proven that burnout was a problem in nursing, even before the pandemic. A two-year study published in Nursing Outlook found that 54% of nurses surveyed experienced burnout, with 28% having high levels of burnout. Among participants that took the survey both years, emotional exhaustion scores increased by 10%. 

Notably, each point increase on the emotional exhaustion scale equated to a 12% increase in turnover. Considering that it costs between $28,400 to $51,700 to replace a nurse, according to the NSI Nursing Solutions, the expense of burnout is a significant burden for healthcare systems.

The stress of the pandemic only amplified the problem of burnout-fueled turnover in healthcare. In March 2021 — a year into the pandemic — a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation study revealed 3 out of 10 healthcare workers were considering leaving the profession. More than half said they felt burned out, with 6 in 10 saying that the pandemic had harmed their mental health.

In the nursing profession, the pandemic sparked a measurable jump in turnover. The attrition rate for registered nurses reached 19% in 2020, up 3% from 2019. When health systems lose nurses, those that stay face extra pressure, from picking up more shifts to caring for a larger number of patients.

Health systems have tried to combat nurse shortages by recruiting travel nurses, who often receive high pay rates of up to $9,000 per week. In 2020, nearly 90% of hospitals hired travel nurses.

However, nurses who stayed at their jobs may have faced frustrations with temporary colleagues due to their limited knowledge of operational workflows and procedures. At best, hiring travel nurses has proven to be a double-edged sword, offering some relief for staffing pressures but adding to feelings of burnout and exhaustion in other ways.

Although nurses were already stretched thin, the pandemic exacerbated chronic nurse shortages. With one survey finding nearly 40% of nurses between 20 and 39 questioning their commitment to the profession, this unfortunate trend could continue in the years ahead. That’s why the American Nurses Association has urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to call ongoing nurse workforce shortages a national crisis.

There’s no doubt that addressing the problem of burnout is imperative for today’s health systems. Fortunately, there is a way forward.

How Technology Curb Healthcare Burnout

Pay incentives, benefits, and self-care opportunities can motivate nursing professionals to power through difficult passages and stay on the job. Still, healthcare organizations need to examine their systems and operational processes to curtail burnout. 

An advanced clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platform is the answer. A CC&C makes it easier for staff and clinicians to do their jobs. The solutions unite patient data from multiple systems and facilitate real-time interaction between care teams — eliminating some of the biggest drivers of burnout. 

Streamlining Communications

Nurse communication with clinicians is critical to ensuring optimal patient care, with an estimated 80% of serious medical mistakes caused by miscommunications. Research published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing links poor communication to lower morale, preventable errors, and high turnover rates.

In many health systems, outdated tools make effective communication in nursing more difficult. Using whiteboards, pagers, faxes, and landline phones slows down information flow, makes it harder to reach the right person at the right time, and burdens care teams. 

Converting to a mobile-ready, HIPAA-compliant clinical communication and collaboration system lets nurses securely message care team members to get answers to questions quickly. These solutions also house up-to-date scheduling details so that nurses never need to track down who is on the floor or on call. 

If a patient has a critical situation and requires prompt attention from a specialist, nurses can send a role-based message that is intelligently routed to the right individual. No need to track down clinicians or make multiple calls to get everyone aligned. And, everyone critical to the communications can be included in the texting conversation, which decreases errors and resolution time. 

Improving Information Access

Caregivers must have contextual information on every patient to make informed clinical decisions. This information often extends outside of the EHR. Hospitals rely on a web of systems  — including nurse call, physiological monitoring, laboratory information systems, smart beds, and real-time location systems. If these systems aren’t integrated, it’s easy to miss crucial data points and make misinformed care decisions.

Advanced CC&C platforms use middleware to bring together data from disparate systems to provide nurses a complete and current portrait of patient status. Additionally, the CC&C platform will automatically alert care providers if data, such as new lab results, indicate a need for immediate attention.

Reducing Alarm Fatigue

Technological advances have promoted better patient monitoring, but they’ve also introduced new complexities. According to research published in the Journal of Electrocariology, nurses respond to between 150 and 400 alarms during their shift. Other research found that between 85 to 99% of all alerts are non-actionable. Because of the frequency of alarms, nurses may be slow to react or tune alarms out.

What’s the solution? Hospitals need alarm management systems that absorb alerts from various systems, enrich them with contextual information, and route them to the right care team member. Instead of nurses being the recipient of every alarm, this approach distributes responsibility for assessing and following up on alerts. The result is less alarm fatigue and fewer interruptions for nurses. When this happens, nurses can focus on care planning and spending time with patients. 

How Healthcare Organizations Can Beat Burnout

By bringing together data from multiple systems and delivering it to the right team member at the right time, the TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform eliminates many of the communication gaps nurses face while coordinating care. TigerConnect Alarm Management & Event Notification works in tandem by integrating with nurse call systems, physiological monitoring, EHRs, and more to reduce false alarms and filter out the noise that can distract nurses from patient care.

Purpose-built with solutions designed for the needs of healthcare professionals, TigerConnect offers a wide range of use cases for healthcare organizations of any size.

  • Coordinating discharges. Discharge can be a complex, multi-step process that involves several team members. With traditional communication approaches, discharge can take nearly an entire shift – leaving patients and care teams frustrated by the delay. TigerConnect roles and workflows let health systems streamline discharge processes and assign tasks to the right individual with less toil and time from nurses.
  • Reducing patient flow bottlenecks. Nurses spend significant time consulting on-duty lists and schedules to track down team members to address patient needs. With TigerConnect, nurses can reach the right person by name or clinical role. This saves time, reduces stress, and lets nurses focus on patients.
  • Eliminating cumbersome paging and callbacks. The old way of paging a clinician and waiting for a callback doesn’t work in today’s fast-paced environment. TigerConnect makes it easy for nurses to send and receive messages on their mobile phones, so they quickly coordinate on patient care.
  • Streamline workflows with contextual notifications. Clinical interruptions from multiple alarms, medical devices, and overhead pacing lead to alarm fatigue among nurses. TigerConnect Alarm Management & Event Notification reduces fatigue by intelligently routing alerts to the right care team member based on clinical roles, assignments, priority, or availability.

Health systems need to look beyond quick fixes and prioritize long-term solutions to curb nurse burnout. A robust clinical communication and collaboration system can reduce the administrative burden on nurses and diminish alarm fatigue, two factors directly tied to burnout. 

When nurses have the tools to do their jobs more efficiently and collaborate with colleagues, their feelings of job satisfaction can grow. Instead of being exhausted at the end of each workday, nurses can feel supported and motivated to give the best care possible to every patient.

Reducing nurse burnout needs to be a priority for every healthcare organization. Watch the webinar “How Intelligently Managing Alerts Improves Nurse Retention, Workflows, and Patient Safety” for actionable tips to beat burnout.

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