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Addressing the Experience-Complexity Gap in Nursing

July 19, 2022
July 19, 2022

For years healthcare and nursing leaders have been focused on an ongoing nursing shortage. Developing recruitment and retention strategies rightfully took center stage as healthcare organizations struggled to keep pace with the needs of patients and nursing vacancy rates that are typically 10% or greater.

Without question, healthcare organizations need a continued focus on recruitment and retention, but there is an emerging issue that further complicates the nursing shortage and should have an impact on strategies to address the issue and ensure patient safety and quality. The issue is the gap between your nursing staff’s experience and the increasingly complex patient population. While the problem is not really new, it has been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic.


The Experience-Complexity Gap: What is it?

The gap between experience and complexity is created (and continues to grow) when large numbers of retiring nurses exit the workforce while the number of new nurses continues to grow. Further complicating the issue is a patient population that is older, more acutely ill and presenting with more chronic comorbidities. At the same time, acute and critical care has become progressively more complex further widening the gap.

Additionally, COVID-19 has served to widen the gap as critically ill COVID-19 patients further stretched healthcare resources and resulted in medically complex patients that required advanced interventions. While safe, high-quality care may be the most alarming casualty of the gap, the opportunity for novice nurses to experience an effective onboarding process and participate in ongoing educational opportunities has also been compromised by the pandemic. Nursing schools were forced to switch to remote learning and shortened or eliminated clinical rotations, while also scrambling to deliver nurse graduates to healthcare organizations who  desperately needed staff, which resulted in novice nurses who were underprepared.


Closing the Experience-Complexity Gap

Many of the circumstances that have created the gap will likely persist, so how should healthcare leaders respond? The Advisory Board recently published a white paper that addressed the issue and recommended a three-pronged solution: education that teaches new nurses more efficiently and moves them more quickly from novice to competence, redistribution of experience across the organization to move existing nurses to where they are needed most, and differentiation of practice to allow the most competent of newer nurses access to the most experienced nurses to help them build confidence and competence in caring for the most critically-ill patients.

Whether there is an experience-complexity gap or not, nurses need the right tools to build confidence and competency in their practice. HealthStream’s Clinical Development Solutions can be an essential part of your organization’s strategy to close this gap. This solution includes:

  • Clinical competency training that is smart, individually-curated for each learner and includes high-quality, reliable content from HealthStream partners.
  • Onboarding for a variety of specialty clinical areas, medical assistants and clinical placement to help staff and leaders feel confident that everyone is providing safe and effective care.
  • Support for your organization’s retention efforts by providing a seamless onboarding process and great professional development tools to help nurses build strong clinical skills while building confidence and giving them more control over their career paths.