The second full week of March is Patient Safety Awareness Week, a time to focus on the important job of providing the safest care possible for patients and residents in healthcare facilities of all types. With that in mind, here’s a closer look at the connection between nurse staffing and patient safety — and how healthcare managed service providers (MSPs) can help support them both at a critical time.
What’s the Connection between Nurse Staffing and Patient Safety?
According to calculations by Johns Hopkins researchers, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 250,000 lives every year. These include mistakes in medication, as well as preventable events like falls or hospital-based infections.
That’s a huge number. And the failure to address it over the past decades has led to public pushback from advocacy groups and activists around the topic of patient safety.
Yet errors are more often attributed to systemic failures rather than human mistakes. And as many organizations have struggled to retain workers since Covid-19 struck, the connection between nurse staffing and patient safety becomes clearer.
“Staffing shortages in particular have caused adverse events in care coordination and medication administration, and have also led to clinicians being forced to work outside their scope of practice,” writes Mari Devereaux in Modern Healthcare. And as Sara Heath points out at PatientEngagementHIT, nurses “who are in charge of too many patients run the risk of becoming stressed out and making medical mistakes,”
According to a survey cited by Heath, nine out of ten nurses say they don’t have enough time to provide the care and emotional support required from their patients, and the family members of those patients, at current staffing levels. And 86 percent said say they’re not able to spend the necessary amount of time educating and engaging patients.
In acknowledgement of this situation, more lawmakers are considering imposing legal mandates for nurse staffing ratios. Demand for “safer” ratios has also been at the center of many of the recent nursing strikes across the country. So far, only California and Massachusetts have ratio mandates on the books. But more than a dozen other states have introduced legislation in recent years, and a number of federal initiatives have also been floated.
How Healthcare MSP Can Help Address Nurse Staffing and Patient Safety
Hospitals have often fought back against staffing ratio mandates, arguing that it limits their ability to care for patients and may obstruct volume. Yet studies have repeatedly shown that higher ratios lead to “decreased survival” among patients. Amid a still-difficult labor market, then, what can organizations do to ensure an effective focus on both nurse staffing and patient safety?
The need to address both nurse staffing and patient safety as a single challenge has led to a number of possible solutions. For instance, organizations focus today more on fostering the kind of positive corporate culture that emphasizes safety and validates workers to improve retention. In addition, many of the safety protocols implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic remain in place today.
> Take action: 6 Strategies for a More Positive Corporate Culture in Healthcare
Some leaders seeking new ways to optimize nurse staffing and patient safety are turning to healthcare managed services providers (MSPs). A turnkey solution for holistically managing essential aspects of a clinical workforce, MSP solutions empower organizations to improve nurse staffing and patient safety in a few very specific ways.
For instance, leading healthcare MSPs offer access to a nationwide pool of both permanent and contingency workers, from career-minded nurse managers to travel nurses seeking the opportunity to help communities in need. And this helps enable organizations to rapidly scale their workforces to achieve a safer patient-to-nurse ratio, even where it isn’t legally mandated.
For leaders who may balk at the cost of improving staffing ratios in this way, MSP can help offset that expense in other ways. For instance, by automating critical aspects of workforce management like billing and scheduling, organizations can accomplish more with fewer workers. And that helps them dedicate new hires to direct patient care, and even to the oversight and management of safety protocols.
Healthcare organizations can further drive efficiencies by leveraging the data and analytical capabilities of leading MSP programs to better prepare for high-impact periods. Doing so can help ensure optimal ratios at the most important times for care delivery, and could help stave off understaffing-related errors while also ramping up their ability to provide optimal staffing.
By furthering holistic integration, healthcare MSP can also help enable better-organized EHR systems, ensuring that workers have faster, easier access to the data that matters most to patient safety. And leading MSP providers can also help organizations stay compliant with important regulatory standards connected to those systems, like HIPAA and the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA).
> Did you know? CareerStaff Unlimited has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Healthcare Staffing Services Certification. Here’s how that helps us offer better MSP services.
Get the Nurse Staffing and Patient Safety Support Your Organization Needs
With the rise of patient advocacy groups caused by medical error, the increased demand for safer ratios from nurse unions, and a more informed and engaged public actively encouraged to ask questions to their care providers, patient safety is a challenge that needs to be addressed today. And CareerStaff is proud to offer solutions to help get the job done.
Learn more about how our industry-leading healthcare MSP solution can help you improve nurse staffing and patient safety: You can contact us here, or request staff here.