Healthcare Staffing Shortages- How Azalea’s EHR Addresses a Top Challenge in Rural Hospitals

Across the country, whether you’re a hospital or clinic in a rural or urban environment, there is one challenge that is probably at the top of your list- staffing shortages. Earlier this year in January, StatNews released an article, aptly titled “Covid-19 is no longer the biggest issue hospitals face- staffing is.” Months later, with the year half complete, the statement still rings true. 

All industries can attest that they’re seeing higher rates of turnover and increases in early retirements, people changing jobs, and employees switching professions- leaving many hospitals and clinics to reexamine operations, workflows, and strategize how to best move forward. Leadership, no doubt, in many hospitals are thinking these three things: 1. How can we retain the talent we do have? 2. Who can alleviate staffing problems in the meantime? 3. What can we leverage to mitigate these shortages? 

The Startling Facts about Healthcare Staffing Shortages

A national 2021 study conducted by Mercer, found that the healthcare industry lost 20-30% of its workforce, and predicted that many of the rest will consider a job change by this year. 

Additionally, the study predicted that by 2026, 900,000 nurses will permanently leave. “If current trends hold, 29 states will not be able to fill the demand for nursing talent, coming up with almost 100,000 nurses short in the next five years” ( Mercer ).

Unfortunately, burnout and turnover is a vicious cycle. Clinical staff burnout leads to additional staff leaving, creating more burnout for those that remain, leading to hiring traveling staff, leading to expensive costs, overworked traveling nurses, leading again to burnout. Did you know that physician burnout and turnover alone cost $4.6 billion annually?

In the end, it’s the patients who will suffer the most-  staffing shortages increases the risk of death for patients by 4 to 6%. Areas with struggling hospitals can expect higher rates of death and co-morbidity in their communities.

On a positive note, to combat these challenges, traveling nurses have risen in popularity and demand over the past 5 years. Staffing shortages in rural areas are not a new phenomenon, however, many rural hospitals now rely on traveling nurses more than ever. In some rural hospitals facing significant staffing shortages, half their nursing staff or more may be supported by traveling nurses. During the employer reshuffle of 2020 and 2021, a lot of permanent nurses at hospitals switched professions or became traveling nurses themselves to alleviate their own financial insecurity- and this is not a unique story.

The Complete Guide To Selecting An EHR Vendor

The EHR vendor selection process is no small task. An EHR system is a significant expense and most EHR vendors have a long onboarding and data migration process that could interrupt your day-to-day workflow. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that your business and patients are depending on a reliable, user-friendly system with accurate data.These are 7 important steps when choosing an EHR vendor, we examine each in this article

What is a traveling nurse?

Traveling nurses are defined usually as a registered nurse with a clinical background working in a non-permanent or temporary nursing role. They only stay on assignment for a given period of time, usually an average of 13 weeks, but they could stay as long as they are needed. 

Traveling nurses are typically employed by an independent nursing staffing agency instead of by a single facility. These agencies can quickly, and easily, place nurses in high-need facilities. Rural hospitals are frequently characterized as high-need facilities that have trouble attracting full-time, non-travelling nurses due to benefits/pay competition offered by non-rural hospitals.

As a traveling nurse you are expected to hit the ground running. During their first 5 days, traveling nurses will receive a brief introduction of the hospital and current staff. They might be on-boarded or receive training, but since the need for help is so urgent, full training is not guaranteed.  Traveling nurses will take on a full patient census (3-4 patients), and their days can ‘fall apart’ rapidly from unexpected circumstances, patient overload, or absences from nurses who are sick themselves or who are caring for a sick family member. Traveling nurses can be a true god-send for hospitals and patients. Without them, hospitals may have to cease operations and cancel surgeries, for example. Facilities would close. Not to mention poor patient health outcomes and the worsening of chronic conditions. 

How Azalea Addresses Staffing Concerns

Like all providers, a traveling nurse’s time is vital. Every minute spent trying to learn how to chart or to transfer patients on the hospital’s unique system is time spent away from patients eager to see a doctor. These nurses do not have the luxury of time to learn every in and out of a system. What becomes vital is the EHRs ease of use- how quickly can they get comfortable using it, how many screens or clicks does it take to complete a task etc. 

Recent data gathered from real time Azalea Health EHR hospital software found out the following:

  • Traveling nurses feel comfortable using the entirety of our system in less than 5 days
  • It takes, on average, 1.5 days to learn ChartNotes 
  • 3 days or less to learn medication management
  • It takes only 67 seconds to complete a full care level transfer

Comparatively, for other EHRs, it can take a new nurse weeks to learn and feel comfortable with a system. Basic documentation and medication administration are not intuitive and can take weeks to feel comfortable using. Key actions like care level transfers take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. 

A current client of Azalea had this to say about our system:

“The hospital system is extremely easy for new or traveling nurses to learn. One traveler said it was the easiest system she’s ever used. Throughout Covid, we had to bring on over 15 traveling nurses to fill staffing gaps and most of them learned the system comfortably within their first week. Without the system being so easy to learn, we would have never been able to onboard so many travelers so quickly. Azalea really helped us get through our severe Covid staffing shortages.” – Nurse Manager of a 25 bed critical access hospital 

To learn more about Azalea’s Hospital EHR solution, feel free to request a demo to see how our solution can give you time back with your patients and time back at home.

Sources Cited