It’s the year 2020 and you’re in the hospital for a minor elective procedure that requires an overnight stay. Lying in your bed, you try to call for a nurse. You send your Tweet to the nurses desk. No nurse. You Tweet again, and again, and again. Where is the nurse???? The nurse never comes, because there are no nurses.
A bit farfetched, but the American health system has a problem brewing that has nothing to do with the current healthcare reform legislation. According to Marla Salmon, Dean of the University of Washington School Of Nursing;
“We’re actually at a crisis point in terms of the shortage of nurses,” (Source – http://bit.ly/81QGZs)
The American hospital is the lowest common denominator of critical and acute-care. A 24/7/365 operation, the hospital is the convergence point for all issues related to healthcare; costs, insurance (or lack there-of), quality of care, quality of equipment. Nurses make up over 60% of the average hospital’s staff; in any great hospital, nurses are the backbone of the organization and serve as the ‘face’ of the hospital to the patient. It is the nurse, providing minute-to-minute care that most directly impacts a patient’s perceptions of their hospital experience and the overall quality, real or perceived, of patient care. Given the nurses importance in the hospital community, following is a very alarming statistic:
In 2008, 100,000 nursing jobs were left open in the United States; this number is expected to surpass 1,000,000 by the year 2023. (Washington: Health Resources and Services Administration)
No one to teach – nursing schools losing educators
Young people not selecting nursing as a career path
50% of first year nurses leave the profession
33% of senior nurses plan on leaving early due to burn-out, physical issues related to on-the-job demands (source: AMN Healthcare, survey of 1,830 nurses age 45-60)
NURSING IS A DANGEROUS PROFESSION or “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Patient”
Senior nurses are leaving the profession in droves due to the PHYSICAL CHALLENGES of patient care. Did you know Nursing and other ‘patient handling’ intensive healthcare roles have one of the highest incidences of work-related back problems of all occupations? Understandable when you hear the cumulative weight lifted by a nurse in one typical 8-hour shift is equal to 1.8 tons. TONS!
Patient handling is the #1 cause of Musculoskeletal Disorders among nurses.
The incidence rates continue to climb, and the direct and indirect costs associated with back injuries for nurses is $20 billion annually. Over 750,000 work days are lost annually as a result of back injuries in nursing, with an estimated 40,000 nurses reporting illnesses from back pain each year.
WHAT ARE THE HOSPITALS DOING ABOUT THIS?
With this resource crisis looming, hospital administrators are scrambling to position their hospital or health network as the ‘employer of choice’ for nurses. Nurses are recruited like NFL free agents; signing bonuses, car allowances, flexible schedules, and front-loaded tuition reimbursements. In addition, Hospitals are stepping up efforts to keep senior nursing staff. Spa visits, entertainment nights, recognition events; yet still the nursing resource gap continues to widen.
The healthcare industry must shift their thinking, shift dollars into programs that drive TRUE change and improvement, not just cosmetic changes.
ERGONOMIC PROGRAMS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Enlightened hospital organizations are leading the way, implementing aggressive ERGONOMIC programs that drive positive change and make them the “Hospital Employer of Choice” among healthcare workers of all categories; nurses – seasoned and entry-level, aides and orderlies, technicians and other categories. The ERGOLAB team of Ergonomicsts works with hospitals to build comprehensive Ergonomic programs focusing on Patient Handling and Worker Safety. These programs are proven to drive down on-the-job injuries, increasing job satisfaction and staffer retention.
Our programs focus on (4) areas; Cultural Change, Training, Tools, and Environmental Re-Design. The most important changes are CULTURAL. Hospital leadership must elevate EMPLOYEE SAFETY and well-being to the same level of importance as Patient Safety. Research shows that Employee Safety and Patient Safety are DIRECTLY connected. A safe and healthy Employee positively impacts the Patient.
At present, 65% of hospitals have some type of Safe Patient Handling program in place; program efficacy is mixed. Leading the way is the work of the VA Hospital networks; their Safe Patient Handling Programs is serving as the model for the private sector. For more information, follow this link to an article detailing the VA’s work and private sector programs under development – http://bit.ly/7sNPXx.
Ergonomics is not the sole answer to our country’s nursing shortage; it must be part of a hospital’s strategy to drive nurse retention, increase PRODUCTIVE days and reduce workers compensation costs. Cost savings from Ergonomics could be redirected into additonal recruiting and retention programs. Ergonomics can help.
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