This blog was originally published on Calling All Nurses – One of the greatest challenges in today’s rapidly changing healthcare system is maintaining the highest standards for patient safety. On the 12th of February, we talked about the issue of disproportionate ratio of new nurses versus experienced nurses. In this article, we’ll focus on another area that requires our attention—high patient turnover rates in nursing units.
As nurses, we are bound by our oath to give quality care to every single one of our patients. This means making sure every person receives the quality care they deserve for as long as they need it. The unfortunate reality is that patients are coming and going way too fast.
What’s the problem?
“I just can’t keep up!” Nurses in today’s healthcare system are desperately struggling to keep up with extremely high incidences of patient admissions, transfers, and discharges on their units.
The average RN could care for as many as 12 or more patients in a single shift, making it nearly impossible to uphold high patient safety standards and effective care.
Studies show high patient turnover rates are directly tied to poor patient outcomes and nurse burnout. Thus, both sides of the healthcare system suffer and create a vicious cycle.
What’s the reason?
Our national healthcare system has become overwhelmed with enormous health care debt, increasing incidence of chronic illness, and the common misuse of many healthcare services. So major budgetary restrictions have been set in place to prevent further damage to our system.
Unfortunately, these cuts are first felt by the nursing units where the majority of patient care takes place. For example, insurance companies and Medicaid and Medicare have placed restrictions on how long patients may stay in a hospital or other healthcare facility for treatment.
If the patient remains in the facility past the set time allowed by the insurance company, then the patient or the hospital becomes liable for payment. As a result, nursing units are experiencing very high patient turnover rates.
What’s being done?
Many healthcare organizations are working on developing plans to help streamline the process of patient turnover rates, taking into account the challenging workload that nurses are faced with in busy healthcare settings. Here are a couple already in the works:
- Using Tracking Tools to Improve Patient Flow in Hospitals. Inpatient tracking tools are electronic systems that improve the tracking ability of patients throughout the hospital.
From admission to discharge, and anywhere in between, the nursing supervisor and care providers can identify the patient’s status at anytime. This provides the hospital staff with the opportunity to better anticipate patient needs, and alert other departments instantaneously of transportation needs, diagnostic testing, etc.
These tracking tools are also being utilized by the nursing supervisors to determine appropriateness of bed assignments based on a variety of factors such as staffing ratios, and nursing skill mix on the destination nursing unit.
2. Implementing Collaborative Health Care. Team-based, or collaborative, care can be defined as “Integrated enactment of knowledge, skills, and values and attitudes that define working together across the professions, with other health care workers, and with patients, along with families and communities, as appropriate to improve health outcomes.”
This approach has maximized nurse-physician collaboration and has shown promise for improving patient care, and creating satisfying working relationships despite stressful working conditions.
As we continue to work hard to increase patient safety and decrease patient turnover rates, I am confident that our devotion to upholding the highest standards of care will result in positive change for all.