Nurses are the backbone of every healthcare system, working long hours to care for patients. May is designated National Nurses Month, which recognizes these often unsung heroes and celebrates their dedication. The observance has a rich history dating back to 1954 when National Nurses Week was declared. In 1982, the American Nurses Association expanded the celebration to a month-long period to acknowledge nurses’ unparalleled impact on patient care and the healthcare system.
This year’s theme, “You Make a Difference,” comes at a critical point as healthcare faces an urgent need to train and retain more nurses. According to a recent McKinsey study, the nursing shortage will become dire, with a shortage of 200,000 to 450,000 nurses estimated by 2025 (10-20 percent). A startling 50 percent of nurses plan to leave their jobs in the next 12 months, and 32 percent plan to leave the field entirely, citing burnout and lack of support as the number one driver behind the decision. This drop in staffing will leave remaining nurses to care for increasingly large patient populations, which could further exacerbate stress levels and burnout.
National Nurses Month kicks off with a week of self-care, highlighting the importance of physical, mental, and emotional well-being and providing resources and encouragement for nurses. The second week focuses on recognition by honoring the work of nurses who lead, excel, and innovate in our healthcare systems and communities, appreciating their vital role in transforming the future of healthcare. The third-week centers around providing nurses with professional development resources, and the fourth focuses on community.
As National Nurses Month aims to better support essential caregivers and their communities, Health Catalyst is highlighting strategies to improve workforce well-being, recognize achievements, and facilitate opportunities for professional growth.
Below are some short-term actions organizations can take to respond to the nursing shortage.
Giving Nurses a Voice: Shared Governance
A shared governance approach recognizes that nurses are experts in their field and empowers them to have a voice in decisions that affect their daily tasks. Involving nurses in decision-making around staffing, scheduling, and workflow can help ensure that the workload is fairly distributed and that nurses can perform efficiently. With nurses at the table, hospitals and organizations can better design these processes to meet the needs of patients and staff, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes and a more satisfied workforce. This approach can also help promote a culture of trust and collaboration between nurses and management, improving morale and reducing turnover.
Compensating Nurses: Efficiencies Through Outsourcing
With healthcare organizations reporting record losses and rising labor costs in 2022, 98 percent of hospital leaders are looking to leverage long-term partners to outsource non-clinical functions. Hospitals are realizing they can’t be the best at everything, and outsourcing non-clinical functions to long-term partners generates greater efficiencies and cost savings that can then be used to address labor shortages.
Reducing the Administrative Burden: Simple Automated Functions
Healthcare organizations are increasingly leveraging automation that streamlines operations and reduces the administrative burden on their nursing staff. Simple automation, such as automating medical coding and billing functions, report writing, and self-scheduling services, can help to free up time and energy for nurses to focus on patient care.
National Nurses Month as a Catalyst for Change
National Nurses Month recognizes and celebrates nurses while highlighting the need to better care for them and nurture their talent. By providing resources and support for self-improvement and career growth, as well as implementing concrete steps like shared governance approaches, fair compensation, and automation that reduce administrative burden, healthcare organizations can attract and retain skilled nurses.
By taking these steps, organizations can enhance working conditions for nurses, reduce burnout and turnover, and ensure that patients receive the high-quality care they deserve. Indeed, observing National Nurses Month can initiate change and ensure meaningful action on behalf of the nation’s caregivers.