From “New Normal”
Uncertainty to a More
In September 2021, an American Association of Critical Care Nurses survey found 92% of an estimated 6,000 acute and critical care nurses believe the COVID-19 pandemic impacted staffing in their hospitals. Of these respondents, many indicated staffing shortages would likely result in premature termination of their own nursing careers.
Even before the pandemic, leaders in healthcare shared concern over projected nursing shortages, citing aging Baby Boomers and increased demand for healthcare as anticipated causes. Today, COVID-19 has further exacerbated the projection, adding burnout and moral distress to the list of contributing factors.
What began as “15 Days to Slow the Spread” in March 2020, has evolved over two years to a perpetually shifting “new normal.” While staffing shortages and supply chain issues affect all aspects of life today, healthcare facilities suffer the additional burden of meeting an increased demand for services.
The pandemic cost hospitals an estimated $24 billion to mitigate staffing shortages. Despite these expenditures, hospitals and long-term care facilities remain vulnerable. Nurses and other healthcare employees are departing for new, different or better opportunities in the wake of a pandemic phenomenon, the “Great Resignation.”
Examples of the challenges nurses face are readily available. Even routine services like food preparation and delivery require additional planning and coordination. Facilities initially struggled to balance individual safety with food services for patients and staff. Often, members of the food services staff were unable to access COVID-19 wards, requiring existing nursing staff to assume those duties as well.
Modifications to food service delivery for either admitted patients or staff seeking a meal in the cafeteria also resulted in increased costs and waste. Facilities created single-use, paper menus, and prepared and distributed meals using disposable crockery, plates and cutlery.
Global shipping container delays, many including imported fruit or other food items, created disruptions to the food supply. A nationwide shortage of long-haul truck drivers contributed as well. Delays or canceled shipments also caused employee hardship due to perpetual menu changes for both patient and cafeteria offerings.
Unfortunately, for nurses working in hospitals or long-term care facilities, food supply disruptions are only one of several problems associated with supply chain shortages. Limitations or decreased availability of items such as nitrile gloves, masks, or adult and infant diapers become friction points during an already challenging shift.
In addition, the sustained shortage of semi-conductor chips plaguing all industries has a significant adverse effect on the healthcare system. Semi-conductor chips are imperative to the operability of numerous devices and pieces of equipment, including patient monitoring systems and computed tomography (CT) scanners. Just as production and supply began to mitigate pandemic induced challenges, the recent and now prolonged conflict with Russia and Ukraine introduced new complications.
Neon and Palladium are two critical elements to semi-conductor chip manufacturing. Russia and Ukraine produce 40 to 50% of semi-conductor grade neon. Russian mines are responsible for an estimated 37% of the world’s Palladium supply. The perpetually shifting “new normal” continues. For many, the daily challenges compound to costs without the counterbalance of clear benefits. Increasing levels of dissatisfaction among nurses and healthcare staff are accelerating departure rates and exacerbating shortages. Opportunities to pursue travel assignments give many nurses freedom to work where and when they want, often at significantly higher pay rates. The impact of this on the healthcare system is twofold: not only does it create a vacancy in an already stretched staff, it likely results in two facilities paying higher rates to fill respective vacancies.
Despite ongoing challenges, organizations across numerous industries have become more agile in both thought and action. “Just in time” logistics now incorporate “just in case” mitigation measures. Recipients adapt to “right on time” supply deliveries. Others are identifying measures to improve the employee experience in an effort to attract and retain talent.
Successfully navigating the “new normal” is often the result of collaborating with those who excel at identifying what risks may lie ahead, and understand how to reduce these hazards. Whether you lead in a hospital, nursing home, or long-term care facility, you are unlikely to find solutions you desire or require in expensive, single-service vendors.
Instead, consider the enduring benefit of a partnership with experts in risk mitigation. HERE, you will find not only likely hazards to your organization, but also potential solutions.
“Risk in Focus” from IMA Financial Group is a primer for the potential benefits of partnership toward a better tomorrow.