The One Challenge in Nursing We Don’t Talk Enough About

Nurse holding a text book

News about tech skills gaps don’t generally make us think about nurses.

But maybe they should. 

Bedside employees may not be designing your next app, but they’re managing tech skills all the same. “Digital transformation is impacting and will continue to impact the discipline of nursing,” wrote Modern Healthcare. It’s not just electronic record keeping, but robotics and AI. Half of nurses told our recent survey that technology advancements are requiring them to learn skills at a faster past than in previous years.  

The Highest Turnover Rate in a Decade

The skills creep is a big deal. Tech may be everywhere. But unlike in other industries where new proficiencies replace old tasks (consider the manufacturing employee shifting to automation support), in nursing, they only add to them – so every new tech skill is required to continue performing the jobs they already do. As one administrator told us, “IV pumps and monitors are getting so sophisticated, nurses are worried for their own competencies.” 

The problem is that workloads are already weighing nurses down. Nearly half feel burnt out at least once a week. And their largest source of stress? The workload – with two-thirds agreeing it’s grown in the last 12 months. Add in tech skills, and it’s no wonder turnover among beside nurses (as we’ll be discussing on a webinar I’ll be hosting later this week) is currently tied for the highest it’s been in a decade. 

The Answer to Nurse Burnout and Turnover

So what can employers do? We know from our survey that work/life balance and career growth are two elements nurses prioritize in current job choices. We also know flexible scheduling and education (specifically, tuition help for future degrees) are two of the top three elements that could lure them away to a competitor. All of those are elements of supportive cultures, something almost all nurses agree affects the quality of patient care. So illustrate a positive culture -- recognize, for example, the grind and inherent work/family conflicts of entry-level-nurse schedules, and then show clear paths to career growth out of them – and you not only facilitate young nurses’ ability (and desire) to keep up with today’s demands; you also get nurses who see you as a place to build a long-term career. And loyal nurses are tough to lure away.

There’s one more thing: reducing churn is only one thing employers need to worry about. Nearly half the nurses we surveyed said in the last six months, they’d seriously considered leaving their jobs. That speaks to state of mind. Nurses who are so stressed that they daydream about leaving – but stay anyway – aren’t on their best game. And that’s not just a threat to organizational structures, but to patient care. Nurses, says the above administrator, are passionate about all aspects of their jobs – learning and patient care. They just need to know their organization is behind them.

Technological evolution isn’t going anywhere. And for nurses, the onus to keep up with it -- in addition to patients -- may just tip the scales even further. A great culture that supports nurses could help level it.

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Nurse holding a text book

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