For every industry, the pandemic provided an opportunity for innovation and change, bringing about new ways to do business. In conversations with nurse and hospital system leaders, I have seen first hand how these innovations have impacted the nursing profession.
On This Clinical Life, I discussed three innovations that we can implement now to elevate and support our nurses. They are:
- Build Backend Support for Nursing Challenges
- Try New Models of Care Delivery
- Be Creative with Shift Scheduling
Build Backend Support for Nursing Challenges
When concrete breaks, it usually isn’t from one major moment of force or collision but from continuous exposure to stress. Much like concrete, nurses that consistently face stressors each day are more likely to leave the profession. To create a more resilient nursing workforce, more attention needs to be given to the challenges nurses face daily. They could be minor, such as a repetitive entry required by the documentation system, or something more major, requiring a change in policy and/or procedure on every unit. In both situations, nurses are critical to the solution, so creating a team that can field grievances from nurses and act upon their ideas is a critical first move in building a support structure for nurses.
Try New Models of Care Delivery
In the past two years, I have seen more health care systems experiment with staffing and new care delivery models. Any organization that isn’t currently trying something new should consider doing a micro test of change. This may mean bringing in new technology, such as artificial intelligence or virtual nurses, into the practice. Or it could be implementing LPNs in the ICU so that RNs can not only care for more patients, but also focus more on the intellectual work needed to help and support patients. I have even heard of a unit that is using a nurse practitioner, RN, LPN model of care. In any case, creativity and nursing feedback is a must to create new, more practical models of care for your hospital.
The Innovation Unit
One fantastic example of this in motion is an innovation unit. nurses who thrive in ambiguity can be enlisted to work in a unit that acts as the testing ground for new ideas for a hospital system. There, new technology, programs, and policies can be tested before being rolled out to other nurses. The benefit of this is twofold – nurses that love to innovate and pioneer new ideas can join the innovation unit, getting the opportunity to facilitate positive change and feel good about the work they are doing. For nurses in other units, they can have confidence in the implementation of new ideas or plans as they have been nurse-tested and approved.
Be Creative with Shift Scheduling
When I was a clinical nurse, there were far more options in terms of scheduling, such as weekend-only work or nine-month work for nurses with families that needed them during the summers. This creativity is starting to make a comeback. During the pandemic, health systems had to be creative to answer COVID surges, so one hospital created thirteen-week stints – nurses spent thirteen weeks (thirteen, as it relates to travel nurse schedules) on an inpatient unit followed by another thirteen weeks either in a perioperative or an ambulatory care center with acute care. For some nurses, this continual change of pace was preferable, as it created a more interesting work life, allowing them the opportunity to work in two different practice settings. As staffing challenges get greater and greater, so too must our answers to making nursing a desirable, motivating, and exciting profession as it once was.
Nursing is changing. It has been for quite some time. The pandemic allows us to change for the better, evolving health care systems to better support and protect nurses and patients.
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Marla J. Weston, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a registered nurse and former CEO of the American Nurses Association. Currently, she serves as the senior advisor for Practicing Excellence’s Nursing Experience Project (NEP), an app-based skill-building solution created by nurses, for nurses.