How Staffing Shortages in Nursing Impact the Patient Experience

Last Updated on May 1, 2023

How Staffing Shortages in Nursing Impact the Patient Experience

Less than a year since the United States Surgeon General issued a warning about the increasing rate of resignation among health workers, staffing shortages in nursing continue to impact many healthcare organizations. And as many observers have pointed out, the patient experience has suffered as a result of these shortages. 

To mark Patient Experience Week 2023, join us in taking a closer look at how the ongoing staffing shortages in nursing are negatively impacting the patient experience, what that means for healthcare organizations, and what industry leaders can do about it.

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The Negative Impacts of the Ongoing Staffing Shortages in Nursing

The Surgeon General’s Advisory from 2022 predicted a shortage of more than 3 million “essential low-wage health workers” by 2027. Likely to affect long-term care (LTC) facilities and nursing homes more than other facilities, that shortage offers a serious challenge to organizations still struggling to get back to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the May 2022 Advisory, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy describes the shortage as a threat not just to the industry but the nation in general. For instance, widespread burnout and the associated increase in resignation rates impact community health by affecting “the public’s ability to get routine preventive and emergency care, and our country’s ability to respond to public health emergencies.”

Those warnings are consistent with data showing that patient outcomes — and patient experience is likely to suffer in understaffed facilities. According to the 2023 Healthcare Experience Trends Report from Qualtrics, only 74 percent of surveyed healthcare consumers in the U.S. reported satisfaction with their healthcare experience. This is compared to a global industry average of 77 percent.

Other studies have supported these findings. For instance, a 2018 observational study concluded that nurse staffing patterns directly affect the patient experience, including assessments based both on “levels (i.e., ratio of full-time equivalent nurses per 1,000 patient days) and composition (i.e., skill mix-percentage of registered nurses; staffing flexibility-percentage of part-time nurses).”

Why Having a Positive Patient Experience Matters

The connection between nurse staffing levels and patient experience isn’t just a concern for healthcare organizations looking to preserve their reputation and track record for positive outcomes. It’s also become a priority for industry groups and government regulators, who have implemented a number of initiatives to support it.

For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now administer a number of patient experience surveys. Many of which are included in the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) initiative. The results can affect the reimbursement available to healthcare organizations that provide care to Medicare and Medicaid patients, and thus their bottom line.

More than just a means to measure satisfaction, these surveys focus on how patients perceive the care they receive. They also ask how often patients receive important information related to their health condition, how they rank the quality of communication from the provider, and how well their medication instructions or other important care coordination matters were explained to them.

Having a positive patient experience matters in other ways, too. Estimates have shown that the choices patients make affect more than 60 percent of all healthcare spending. As a result, structuring services and delivery in a way that maximizes the experience they receive is more likely to encourage referrals and repeat business.

How to Combat the Staffing Shortage in Nursing

No matter the specific metric being used to measure the patient experience, experts agree that nurses are an essential part of it. “Nurses are central to coordinating the patient experience, targeting both cost efficiencies and improved care outcomes for diverse patient groups,” as a white paper from the American Nurses Association (ANA) explained.

Given this connection, the clearest course of action for healthcare organizations looking to boost their patient experience is to staff more nurses. Yet simply hiring more nurses isn’t usually a valid option. Budget constraints, local shortages and a number of other factors driving the current shortage are also working against most operators — especially smaller ones, or those located in rural or remote areas.

For its part, the government has acknowledged this dilemma by allocating millions of dollars in the recent Omnibus bill to address the shortage of nurses. Nursing homes in particular are eligible for increased funding at the state level as a result. However, much of that new funding also goes to the enforcement of new staffing mandates, which could further complicate matters for some operators.

Whether or not an organization can realize budget increases thanks to these funding increases, there are other options. For example, Qualtrics advises in its patient experience findings that healthcare organizations focus on improving the culture of the workplace. The idea is that focusing on employee satisfaction will help improve the patient experience by extension.

> Don’t Miss: 6 Strategies for a More Positive Corporate Culture in Healthcare

Improving the Patient Experience with Healthcare MSP

Another option for organizations looking to offset the nurse staffing shortage is enlisting the help of a healthcare managed service provider (MSP). Healthcare MSPs can offer facilities access to a robust, nationwide pool of clinical workers, including permanent, temp and travel staff. And this built-in workforce helps deliver the flexibility and scalability to quickly scale up or down, as needed.

In addition, healthcare MSP provides organizations of all types a more efficient way to fulfill essential workforce tasks. These tasks can include contracting and payroll/IC compliance. By streamlining many complex and time-consuming tasks into a single, easily-managed line item, an MSP partner can help simplify and modernize these key aspects of workforce management to further drive efficiency and value.

Automating complex processes like contract labor management helps provide greater efficiency, compliance, and resource optimization for organizations of all types. It can also help improve the productivity of current staff in a way that further boosts efficiency and job satisfaction — an important advantage at a time when many workers are seeking greener pastures

By tackling a number of essential tasks with the help of a single partner, healthcare MSPs can be an effective way for organizations to operate more effectively within tightening budgetary constraints. Additionally, getting more work done in less time can reduce the need to hire new administrative workers, leaving more room in the budget to hire clinicians, among other benefits.

> Learn more about the benefits of healthcare MSP here.

Find Your Healthcare MSP Solution with CareerStaff

At CareerStaff, we’re proud to be a leader in healthcare MSP, offering a suite of workforce management solutions for organizations of all types. Contact us here to learn more about what our MSP services can do for your organization, or to set up a consultation.

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