The Importance of Nurse Safety Registration

The Importance of Nurse Safety: Strategies for a Safer Healthcare Environment

February 26, 2024
February 26, 2024

This blog is an overview of a recent HealthStream webinar entitled “The Importance of Nurse Safety: Strategies for a Safer Healthcare Environment.”

Featured presenters:

  • Terri Epler, RN, MSN, Solution Consultant Manager, HealthStream
  • Gia Milo-Slagle, Senior Director of Producy, Scheduling, HealthStream

Supporting your nursing team, protecting patient safety, addressing patient acuity, and managing staffing shortages and various other challenges are all high priorities for healthcare leaders. This webinar offered leaders real solutions that enhance the safety of their teams' and patients' safety while reducing burnout and improving satisfaction, retention and perceptions regarding work-life balance.

So, what solutions will help nursing leaders address recruitment and retention while helping to ensure that those staff members feel valued, whole, and safe within their jobs while prioritizing patient and staff satisfaction? Milo-Slagle began by explaining that there were many different ways in which to evaluate and manage nurse safety and that the webinar would be focusing on staffing, the link between nurse burnout and nurse safety, the impact of nurse well-being on patient care, and staffing solutions that can bolster the safety of nurses (and subsequently patients).

Nurse Burnout – What is it?

The topic of nurse burnout is familiar, and Milo-Slagle began with a foundational definition. The World Health Organization says that burnout is caused by unmanaged, chronic workplace stress. Burnout can manifest in many ways but is most often recognized by:

  • Mental and physical exhaustion
  • Mental distance from the job
  • Cynicism about the job
  • Reduced efficacy in the workplace

It can occur in any industry, but the current stressors in healthcare make it feel almost unavoidable, as factors well beyond providers' control make it difficult for them to provide the care that patients need.

The World Health Organization is not the only organization to take note of the causes and impact of nurse burnout. A July 2023 study from the American Nurses Association found that:

  • 31% of nurses reported being required to work beyond their regular shifts weekly
  • 1% reported feeling burned out
  • 7 said that they felt fatigued
  • 8% reported feeling emotionally drained

Milo-Slagle pointed out that some of the causes of burnout are simply inherent in the nursing profession, making the problem even more challenging to address. Contributors include providing compassionate care, long hours, changing schedules, and the physical demands of being on your feet for long periods of time. In addition, there are systemic contributors such as the impact of the pandemic, aging baby boomers with increasingly complex healthcare needs, witnessing death and suffering, and providing comfort to dying patients who do not have friends or family.  

The link between nurse safety and patient safety has been repeatedly demonstrated, and nurses, physicians and healthcare leaders identify nurse safety as a key priority.

Nurse Safety: Addressing the Challenges

Milo-Slagle stressed that addressing turnover, recruitment, retention, and burnout requires solutions that address issues of connection, leadership, training and growth. Nurses need meaningful connection to their work and want to work at the top of their licenses. Managers wishing to address these issues need to understand and address barriers to that connection.

Nurses also need effective leaders. Supporting nurse leaders and helping them create a safe environment for nurses is critical. Nurses also want career advancement and the opportunity to learn new skills. Newer nurses (those who have been in an organization for less than two years) are seeking psychological safety and assurance that it is okay to speak up.

Nurse Safety: Strategy and Tools

The good news is that there are solutions to what Milo-Slagle called the nurse burnout trifecta – low staffing, emotional exhaustion, and high workload demands. Epler demonstrated some key features of HealthStream’s ShiftWizard and Acuity and Assignment Manager.

ShiftWizard: ShiftWizard’s resource manager dashboard can help leaders instantly see where they are over or under-staffed. It also provides all of the information about staff that managers need to know to make safe and equitable assignments, such as FTE status, title, seniority, overtime and PTO status, licenses, and other demographic information. In addition, Epler shared that ShiftWizard is able to look at a single unit, all units, and can be configured to show all units within the entire enterprise or like units within the enterprise.

ShiftWizard makes it easy for leaders to make assignments with confidence. Before an employee can be assigned to a unit, ShiftWizard will ensure that the employee has all the necessary permissions, licenses and certifications to work in that area. If the employee does have the proper permissions, leaders can use the drag-and-drop feature to make the assignment. ShiftWizard also includes self-scheduling opportunities – a huge satisfaction that can help put employees in charge of their work-life balance.

Epler also shared that there is a messaging center embedded within ShiftWizard. This capability makes sending targeted messages to employees about open shifts easy. Managers are able to get very granular with those messages sent to employees based on their employment status, licenses, certifications, overtime status, and more. Messages are securely stored in a central location and can be delivered as email, text or voice messages.  

Acuity and Assignment Manager: HealthStream’s Acuity and Assignment Manager helps leaders build schedules and match staff with patients. Aligning staff with the needs of patients requires aggregating a rather daunting amount of data, however, the Acuity and Assignment Manager can calculate an acuity score for each nurse to help ensure safe and equitable assignments. In addition, staffing from prior shifts can be used to populate new shifts, making it easier to establish continuity of care. This same solution allows leaders to assign specific tasks and can help ensure that staff are getting meal breaks.

The Acuity and Assignment Manager is able to aggregate an enormous amount of data, including patient census and acuity data, employee demographics, and more, to help leaders develop efficient schedules months in advance. In addition, ShiftWizard and the Acuity and Assignment Manager have flexible reporting features for leaders and staff.