Toolkit Designed to Provide Immediate Strategies to Improve Nurse Staffing

The Nurse Staffing Think Tank – a diverse group of front-line nurses, nursing leaders and other key stakeholders including patient safety representative, CEO, CFO and Human Resources – has published a set of priorities and recommendations that provide immediate strategies that can be feasibly implemented in the short term (12-18 months) to help address the nurse staffing crisis.

The Think Tank was launched by Partners for Nurse Staffing, a collaboration between the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), American Nurses Association (ANA), American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL), Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).

Appropriate nurse staffing has been a challenge for decades. Nurses, policy-makers, and health care leaders have used various approaches to meet the increasing demand to ensure safe, quality patient care and nurse satisfaction, but consistent, effective solutions have remained elusive. The COVID-19 pandemic magnified these challenges and generated new barriers to appropriate staffing.

The Think Tank convened six times between January and March 2022 to tackle a wide range of issues related to the nurse staffing crisis. Major topics included the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing, and the importance of trust and transparency to build healthy work environments. Members also discussed the connection between nurses’ well-being and staff retention, along with the best ways to utilize scheduling flexibility, compensation, and delivery models, among other topics.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on the value of nurses, and the nursing workforce,” said ANA director of nursing programs Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC. “At the same time, it has accelerated a persistent staffing shortage that has plagued the profession for decades toward a crisis. Without swift and sufficient action, the nation’s nurses, patients, and communities will continue to suffer.”

“Addressing workforce challenges is the top priority in health care. We can’t provide health care and services to our communities without our workforce,” said AONL CEO Robyn Begley, DNP, RN, NEA-BC. “Bringing together those who deliver care and those who ensure sustainability of care delivery is critical to developing outcomes-based staffing models, improving value and fostering a healthy practice environment to engage nurses and support resilience and well-being.”

Demand for health services continues to rise. Addressing nurse staffing at healthcare organizations is critical to manage these needs. An established body of evidence shows that appropriate nurse staffing is correlated with improved patient outcomes and greater satisfaction for both patients and staff.

“Healthcare is a human business. Hospitals can add all the rooms, beds and equipment they want, but none of that matters without nurses there to take care of sick patients,” said AACN president Beth Wathen, MSN, RN, CCRN-K. “For years, usual and accepted staffing models have viewed nursing as an expense, not an investment. And yet, there is ample evidence that links appropriate nurse staffing with optimized nursing care and improved patient outcomes."

At the conclusion of its work, the Think Tank developed actionable and immediate strategies for acute and critical care practice settings that address the nurse staffing crisis. The team identified six priority areas that need urgent action:

  • Healthy work environment
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Work schedule flexibility
  • Stress injury continuum
  • Innovative care delivery models
  • Total compensation

Insights from the Think Tank will help guide the efforts of the newly formed Nurse Staffing Task Force, which launched this month. In this next phase of work, the task force will focus specifically on driving a powerful dialogue on a national scale to develop mid-range to long-term sustainable solutions to the nurse staffing crisis. The task force brings together health care leaders, nurses, patient advocates, and representatives from numerous organizations, associations, and entities that are highly impacted and will provide evidence and insight on the nurse staffing crisis.

“HFMA shares in the Partners for Nurse Staffing’s commitment to identifying sustainable solutions to the nurse staffing shortage,” said HFMA president and CEO Joseph J. Fifer, FHFMA, CPA. “This group is well equipped to drive actionable solutions, which are urgently needed.”

“Healthcare has experienced setbacks in safety performance in safety culture scores, hospital-acquired infections, patient falls, pressure injuries, and workforce illnesses and injuries throughout the pandemic,” said Patricia McGaffigan, vice president of safety programs at IHI. “It’s imperative that health care organizations reinvigorate their focus on patient and workforce safety and ensure that nurses are co-designing care and staffing models that enable the best nursing care possible in the healthiest of work environments.”

Source: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses