Monday December 18th 2017

ANA Conference 2016: Nurses discuss staffing problems – and solutions

Achieving optimal staffing levels is critical to improving patient care and reducing costs, an expert told more than 100 nurses attending a preconference session at the 2016 ANA Conference, “Connecting Quality, Safety and Staffing to Improve Outcomes,” today in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

“We must have systems and processes in place,” said Jim Fenush, MS, RN, director of nursing, clinical support services at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA. “And thinking about how we do things differently will be critical.”

In two preconference sessions, “Staffing Basics: Building Concepts” and “Making the Case for Staffing: Finding Advanced Solutions,” Fenush and Rita Barry, BSN, RN, nurse manager of scheduling and staff deployment at Hershey Medical Center, shared their expertise on innovative approaches to staffing, including new care delivery models and making the case for appropriate staffing and skill mix.

Attendees were asked to participate in small group activity to answer the question: What are your greatest staffing and scheduling challenges? What is working well related to staffing and scheduling? They were then asked to highlight one successful solution related to staffing or scheduling from their organization.

Some of the challenges the nurses shared included finding adequate staff, scheduling, high employee dissatisfaction and managing overtime.

One nurse said her hospital hired a business data analyst to analyze work schedules to identify gaps weeks ahead to allow time to address the gaps.

What’s being done to make sure nurses take their lunch and breaks so they’re not fatigued? One nurse said her hospital has a “break nurse” who assigns breaks and documents when nurses decline to take their breaks. While nurses are allowed to miss lunches or breaks if they’re in the middle of a procedure, those who choose not to take breaks are not allowed overtime.

To better manage staffing, one hospital implemented a crisis staffing plan. “If the unit is two nurses short, we offer a bonus of $100 for the day shift and $150 for nights to nurses to come in to work,” said Angie Beard, RN, MSN, CCRN-K, vice president/chief nursing officer at NorthCrest Medical Center in Springfield, TN. “If the unit is one nurse short, the nurses split the money. We value our nurses and want them to feel that we value them and their time. It has definitely increased morale.”

— Veronica Byrd, director of public relations, American Nurses Association

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