Nursing is a demanding and oftentimes stressful job that can cause nursing professionals to feel exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically. Burnout is at a record high among health professionals and demand is only expected to increase. Pair that with the weight of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the burden on nurses and other healthcare professionals will only continue to climb.
According to a recent study, 15.6% of all nurses reported feelings of burnout. In another study, nearly half of 600 surveyed nursing professionals in the United States have considered leaving the field.
One of the largest contributors to nurse burnout is workforce shortages. The American Nursing Association reports that one in three nurses feel inadequately staffed and that 96 out of 100 nurses report fatigue at the beginning of their shift.
The demand for nurses will only continue to increase. Half of today’s registered nurses are over the age of 50 and researchers project that one million of them will retire in the next decade, leaving an additional 203,700 new RNs needed each year through 2026. The staffing problem is exacerbated by the current response to the COVID-19 pandemic wherein retired healthcare professionals and soon-to-graduate students are being recruited to help manage the recent inflow of patients.
While these numbers and circumstances can feel overwhelming, digital health tools can help support the strained healthcare workforce and help alleviate burnout.
Many reports of burnout have been attributed to EMRs and a study by Mayo Clinic showed that EHR usability scores were associated with physician burnout. However, there are a plethora of digital health tools focusing on areas such as workflow, remote diagnostics, and virtual care.
Online diagnostics and symptom checkers have the ability to monitor symptoms through automated bots and can help triage patients. Examples include technologies that can virtually assess symptoms, check-in with patients post-discharge, help direct users to a local provider or service for an in-person visit, and assist with scheduling.
Virtual or avatar-based nurses are being increasingly deployed and can further humanize and enhance the experience for both patient and provider. There are platforms of virtual nurses that keep patients connected to providers between visits, prevent readmission and some that go even further to provide personalized, holistic health plans.
Professional workflow technologies provide some of the largest opportunities to reduce nurse burnout and help relieve overworked staff. These platforms and tools can ease the burden in seemingly simple ways such as voice-recognition and automation for data entry and other routine administrative tasks. Others assist with patient admission and discharge and allow patients and their providers to communicate through EMR embedded platforms.
Workforce management for healthcare professionals can be a complicated and labor-intensive task, but there are now multiple platforms addressing the issue by generating schedules and identifying gaps in shift work. There are also online marketplaces connecting healthcare workers and provider organizations for both permanent and temporary staff.
There has also been an uptick in platforms that address nurse burnout directly. The past few years have seen an increase in apps for mindfulness and mental health, but there are also burnout-specific treatment platforms as well as peer-based platforms where professionals can connect to each other.
The World Health Organization declared this the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Our Nursing Informatics Community and supporters are coming together to celebrate the tireless and inspiring work of nurses around the world, today, this year and beyond.