Hospitals and healthcare professionals have been through an unparalleled test worldwide over the past few years. As the strain on resources and personnel continues to impact hospital efficiency and patient care, it is essential to address the challenges head-on and find innovative solutions for improved outcomes.
Turning the Corner
In recent years, healthcare facilities have operated in survival mode, coping with limited personnel and rapidly changing schedules to accommodate the influx of patients. Now, as the world faces a real crisis, it is time to hit the reset button. The demand for healthcare professionals remains high, but many registered nurses have left the profession, leading to the biggest exodus observed in four decades.
According to a study by Health Affairs, the number of RNs dropped by more than 100,000 in 2021 alone. Moreover, Epic Research found that nurses working 12-hour shifts saw a 19.5% decrease in median tenure from March 2021 to March 2022. This decline in experienced nursing staff poses a critical challenge to healthcare organizations, necessitating a strategic approach to rebuilding the workforce.
As we reassess the situation, two key areas emerge as focal points for improvement: teamwork and communication. Both are interconnected and contribute significantly to the quality of care and overall hospital efficiency.
1. Building Consistent Teams
In many hospitals today, teams are frequently reshuffled based on availability, which can lead to a lack of cohesion during procedures. Changing team members midway through an operation or even during short-duration cases causes disruptions and disarray in the operating room. Doctors may find this unsettling, and nurses are often left running between patients, leading to mental and physical exhaustion.
Such persistent movement also hampers situational awareness, as decision-makers lack the necessary data points to make informed choices. By creating consistent teams that work together regularly, situational awareness dramatically improves. Although not always feasible, establishing specialized units that develop strong bonds and produce innovative solutions can significantly enhance patient care.
2. Respecting Expertise and Clear Communication
Effective teamwork hinges on respecting the humanity and expertise of everyone in the operating room. Often, hospital staff responsible for scheduling attempt to pair less experienced nurses with more experienced ones, seeking a balance. However, true expertise goes beyond mere years on the job; it involves having the right knowledge and skills for specific tasks.
Creating Cultures of Psychological Safety
To maximize efficiency and enhance patient care, developing cultures of psychological safety is crucial. Obstacles to communication can arise from traditional hierarchies in the operating room, where surgeons are often seen as the ultimate authority. When a culture of respect and collaboration is nurtured, communication flows more freely, enabling all team members to work together cohesively.
Healthcare professionals should feel confident and empowered to voice their ideas, ask questions, and raise concerns without fear of retaliation. A culture that encourages open dialogue fosters better communication, allowing all team members to collaborate seamlessly. In this type of culture, instead of dismissing questions with “We have always done it this way,” responses can focus on appreciating the information, questioning, or suggestion. By creating an environment where individuals feel valued and heard, hospitals foster expert teams that focus on collective knowledge and learning.
Overcoming Challenges and Embracing New Technologies
Building such a culture takes time, but it is essential to prioritize people’s needs in healthcare processes. New technologies can play a crucial role in supporting these efforts. Advanced surgical workflow software and automation tools can help streamline scheduling, optimize team composition, and facilitate clear communication.
The past few years have brought significant challenges to hospitals and healthcare professionals, impacting both efficiency and patient care. To emerge stronger, we must hit the reset button and focus on rebuilding healthcare systems with teamwork and communication at the core. By creating consistent and expert teams and fostering a culture of psychological safety, hospitals can improve efficiency and provide the best possible care to patients. Embracing new technologies can further support these efforts, allowing healthcare organizations to navigate the challenges and embrace a brighter future for healthcare delivery.