In a perfect world, every healthcare facility would always be adequately staffed with skilled and vetted nurses. However, due to the nation's ongoing nursing shortage, this is only sometimes the case, and according to research, the persistent scarcity of nurses could continue for many years. Luckily, there is a silver lining.
Hospitals could mitigate current nursing shortages by staying current with modern staffing trends. Examples of such staffing trends include scheduling applications that recruit per diem nurses who can quickly adapt to various healthcare environments and are available to fill shifts immediately. Likewise, skilled nursing facilities can provide a supportive and welcoming environment for per diem nurses by offering open lines of communication, such as regular updates on shift availability, schedule modifications, and any critical information related to patient care.
Considering all of this, if your healthcare facility is struggling to maintain appropriate staffing or requires an effective way to boost nurse recruitment and retention, keep reading. Here are some great techniques for filling shifts quickly and efficiently at your facility:
Why Is Having Adequate Nursing Staff Levels So Important?
Every day, hospital management and schedulers decide how many nurses and healthcare workers to assign to various sectors of their facilities. Why? Because adequate staffing in acute care settings such as hospitals is crucial for ensuring safe and quality patient care. Not having enough nursing staff to meet patient census—the current number of patients receiving care at an institution—can lead to longer wait times, delayed treatments, and increased risk for medical errors.
To compound the situation, insufficient staffing in acute care settings can make a nurse feel overworked and exhausted. This can be especially true for nurses such as single parents or older nurses who need flexibility in scheduling to improve energy levels and help prevent burnout. Additionally, having proper staffing levels in a hospital at all times can foster a more positive work environment, ultimately leading to more compassionate and overall better patient care. Finally, when a hospital succeeds at maintaining staffing ratios, extended stays and readmissions may happen less frequently, which can reduce healthcare costs in general.
How Can a Hospital Find and Retain Nursing Staff?
Combating nurse turnover and nurse shortages is a problem for hospitals that have been around for a while. Nursing shortages have existed as long as a nurse was identified as a profession. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses, "The U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs) expected to intensify as Baby Boomers age and the need for health care grows."
As a result, hospitals have been attempting to adjust current scheduling practices to replace gaps in coverage with experienced nurses while also exploring ways to keep nurse staff satisfied. It's a big task, but hospital facilities must accept responsibility for ensuring patients and nurses feel appreciated and cared for. If done right, the equation can look something like:
While some nurse turnover is unavoidable, significant strategies exist to enhance retention staffing numbers and create a pleasing workplace. Let's look at what staffing trends hospitals can utilize to fill more shifts today.
1. Offer Flexibility
"Put the Power of Staffing in the Hands of Nurses."
-Curtis Anderson, CEO and founder of Nursa
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 45% job growth for nurse practitioners through 2031, making it one of the country's fastest-growing occupations. As more registered nurses (RNs) enter the workforce, it's easy to see why healthcare facilities recognize the importance of flexibility in scheduling to help retain and attract new nurses. One of the primary advantages of a flexible schedule for nurses is an improved work-life balance. For example, hospitals can strive to accommodate a large demographic of nurses by staggering shifts and offering shifts that begin at atypical times. Scheduling managers can also put the power back in the hands of nurses by offering them a choice in the matter. In other words, it allows nurses to choose the shifts they want to work based on their preferences.
One case study showed that offering staggered shifts or split shifts to registered nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) was a solution for cutting healthcare costs (saving money on overtime pay) and improving staff morale. Ultimately, scheduling flexibility can assist nurses in juggling personal obligations like child or senior care while still fulfilling their job obligations. Moreover, flexibility in scheduling for nurses can raise morale among staff members, boost productivity, and lessen the need for sick days.
2. Use Technology Apps and Staffing Solutions
With more than 310 million smartphone users in the U.S. as of 2023, the United States has one of the largest smartphone markets in the world, according to a report by Statista. In addition, more and more people in the U.S. are downloading apps to help assist in job searches. Acute care settings can take advantage of these statistics by using scheduling apps to help attract nurses who are looking for flexible work. Nursa, for example—an innovative staffing platform and app—can help healthcare facilities looking for qualified per diem nurses to fill shifts faster. This staffing app improves patient care by connecting nurses seeking flexible work with hospitals that need it most. The app provides an effective and quick turnaround to hire PRN nurses, filling gaps in coverage. Similarly, apps like Nursa enable nurses to choose shifts that promote a work-life balance, contributing to the importance of scheduling flexibility and respecting a nurse's preferences.
3. Practice Open Communication
No matter what field a professional is in, improving worker morale in any industry requires fostering an open communication culture. In healthcare, encouraging staff to share their thoughts and opinions can improve collaboration and enhance better decision-making. Therefore, staffing managers and schedulers should actively listen to permanent and contingent staff members by addressing concerns authentically and transparently. Nurse staffing managers can practice open communication in the following ways:
- Hosting regular staff meetings that include feedback sessions
- Hosting team-building activities such as icebreakers
- Looking for ways to celebrate nurse staff with luncheons or catered break room events
- Checking in with healthcare staff one-on-one and face-to-face and addressing any concerns or questions
There is success in any workforce where there is open communication and dialogue. That's because when staff members feel seen and heard, they also feel valued. This open communication culture in a healthcare setting can increase staff engagement and loyalty, ultimately leading to more productive nursing staff.
4. Foster a Positive Working Environment
Along with encouraging open communication and active listening, hospitals can retain nurses and reduce turnover by fostering a flexible culture that demonstrates appreciation. This involves scheduling managers being conscious of a nurse's life outside their nursing shifts. Furthermore, gratitude doesn't cost a thing, and hospital management is becoming increasingly aware that simply expressing how much they care about their nurses can help boost morale and retention. For example, the most straightforward method to express gratitude to a nurse is to say "thank you." This can show nurses their work is valued and appreciated, increasing the probability that they will keep showing up ready and motivated to work their shifts.
Fill More Shifts and Keep Nurses Happy
Maintaining acceptable nursing-staff ratios while keeping nurses happy is challenging and can strain hospital administration and schedule managers. With that said, there are ways to combat nursing shortages by providing nurses with scheduling flexibility and prioritizing open communication and workplace positivity.
In addition, hospitals can fill staffing gaps by utilizing per diem nurses while reducing the burden on permanent nurse staff that may feel overburdened or overworked. Luckily, filling shifts fast and effectively is accessible with innovative platforms like Nursa that empower per diem nurses by providing them with flexible and well-paying job opportunities. Flexible scheduling and a positive work environment can give facilities the coverage they need and make nurses feel appreciated. It's a win-win for both sides!