As we celebrate nursing over the coming weeks (a National Day, Week and Month!), there is reason for both serious concern for the immediate future and optimism that we have the tools to change over the long run.
Providers are under stress. Kaufman Hall reports that through February, the average hospital operating margin had fallen 42.4% in the first two years of the pandemic, to a negative 3.5%. Widespread staff shortages – mainly but not exclusively nurses – and pandemic-related supply chain challenges drove expenses up 32% in the same two years. There are 3% fewer staff on hand, but those who remain cost far more.
More alarmingly, a survey by the American Nurses Foundation revealed that more than half of all RNs were considering leaving their organizations this year.
Last September, the CDC reported that because of these stresses, adverse events were on the rise. Infections, central-line and catheter-associated, as well as MRSA, increased exponentially. COVID made close observation of patients harder and delayed responses as RNs and techs needed to don PPE before entering the room. This is why more than 400 hospitals took us up on our offer of free software licenses for using AvaSure’s TeleSitter solution to monitor COVID patients.
Social isolation and other stressors from the pandemic have also led to an explosion of behavioral health problems, including drug overdoses, suicidality, eating disorders and violence against caregivers.
Those are some of the challenges, but there is also hope. New payment for remote therapeutic monitoring, modest expansion of payment for telehealth and greater adoption by providers of video safety monitoring will extend the reach of ever-scarcer clinical expertise. Taking some of the rote tasks off the plate of nurses frees them to focus on clinical work closer to the scope of their professional licenses.
We are also seeing the rise of centralized hubs that provide virtual care in the form of TeleSitter and virtual nursing, whether that is assistance with admission/discharge activities, mentoring new grads or virtual critical care expertise.
So let’s appreciate nurses still on the job and give them the resources they need to bring back the joy of providing quality care for patients.
Lisbeth Votruba, MSN, RN, AvaSure Chief Clinical Innovation Officer