What Nurse Unions, CNIOs, and Virtual Care Have in Common
Workforce challenges continue to be a chief obstacle for healthcare provider organizations. Nurse burnout and attrition reached a fever pitch during the pandemic, leading to a surge in nursing strikes nationwide. Nursing unions are at the forefront, championing better staff-to-patient ratios, safety measures, wages, and working conditions for their members.
2023 research from the Health Management Academy sheds light on some of the ways hospital clinical leadership is working to tackle nursing concerns. Developing more sustainable documentation protocols to reduce the burden on nursing teams and leveraging technology to reduce workplace violence were among the top priorities cited by Chief Nursing Information Officers (CNIOs) in leading health systems.
Integrating virtual nursing into care offerings, monitoring technology’s influence on nursing labor cost trends, and streamlining tech stacks to improve clinical efficiency were also cited as key focus areas. CNIOs are keenly attuned to technology’s impact on clinical workflows and experience, and rightfully so.
Recent McKinsey research suggests that hospitals could free up as much as 20% of nurses’ time during a 12-hour shiftthrough tech enablement.
Many of the tasks the McKinsey research highlights as being ripe for tech enablement – documentation, hunting and gathering, and interdisciplinary communication – align with virtual nursing objectives.
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Virtual Nurse: Friend or Foe?
Given the fair share of turmoil and turnover in the nursing profession in recent years, it’s unsurprising that the concept of virtual nursing has encountered naysayers. Clinical resistance to the hybrid care model largely centers on the misconception that virtual nurses will replace bedside RNs. Virtual nurses are intended to augment and support existing teams, not supersede them, by taking tasks off of overburdened nurses’ plates.
“It’s about alleviating [nurses’] pain points and making the job more satisfying,” says Caregility Clinical Program Manager Irene Goliash, RN. “You can significantly improve patient, family, and staff satisfaction just by shifting clinical workload to someone who has time to devote to the specific activity.”
Virtual nursing introduces remote resources floor nurses can tap for patient care support and staff safety monitoring. It also introduces a succession plan that allows hospitals to move experienced nurses who age out of bedside care into virtual roles to preserve institutional knowledge.
Selecting the right virtual care platform can also impact the perception of virtual nursing. To appeal to clinicians, solutions should offer a consistent, simple interface and include things like training components that reduce total onboarding time for new nurses. Identifying a solution that is agile enough to be leveraged enterprise-wide can help health systems achieve goals related to clinical resource consolidation.
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The Shared Mission to Elevate Nursing
Nursing unions, hospital clinical leadership, and virtual nursing programs all have one thing in common: They support a shared mission to address nursing pain points to improve clinician experience, reduce burnout, drive efficiency, and positively impact patient care.
The challenges faced by the nursing workforce are multi-faceted and require a comprehensive approach to address them effectively. Integrating virtual nursing into comprehensive care offerings is one way to alleviate some of the pressures faced by bedside RNs, without replacing them. Leveraging technology, healthcare organizations can ultimately improve the experience for clinicians and, in turn, patient outcomes.