What is Short-Staffing?

Short-staffed shifts occur when the census – the number of admitted patients – surpasses a unit’s maximum capacity per nurse set by standards of quality and safety. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in nearly every department of every hospital. Long-term care, clinics, and stand-alone facilities are affected as well, as each experience spikes in patient volume from shift to shift.

Why Shifts Go Understaffed

Many factors contribute to call-ins and unfilled shifts:

  • Personal obligations, health events, and schedule access/rigidity force nurses to carve out time in order to balance their work and personal lives. 
  • Nurse burnout is near epidemic as an estimated 17.5% of newly-licensed RNs leave their first nursing job within the first year, and one in three leave within two years. 
  • Perpetual requests for coverage drives nurses to tune out most outreach.
  • The nationwide nurse shortage.

While there is no single cause of short-staffing, the burden of helping additional patients falls squarely on nurses. The inability to safely staff every shift threatens both nurses and patients. Hospitals must initiate and embrace the change necessary to provide the patient care they have promised. 

The Impact of Short-Staffed Shifts
A nurse’s workload is structured around their patient load. Additional patients spread time thinner, burdening nurses with the impossible task of providing quality care faster. It is crucial for administrators and stakeholders, as well as facility tech buyers to understand the unintended consequences of neglected staffing levels.
 Falls
When nurses spend less time with each patient, the patients themselves may attempt to do more if their call lights are not answered. Falls are extremely costly. Facilities can not chance delayed responses to ‘fall risk’ bed alarms because of understaffing.
 Medication Errors
Proper nursing hinges on details. When nurses are rushed, they are more likely to miss aspects they otherwise would have noticed. Despite a number of fail safes in hospitals, the final one is the nurse. When nurses are exhausted from yet another short-staffed shift, this fail safe can fail, and med errors can be devastating.
 Bed Sores
Patients who are immobile must be moved at specific times throughout the day to avoid developing bed sores. Turning patients requires two staff members at a minimum; however, nurses often turn patients by themselves because other staff are busy – a quick way to injure one’s backs. Another impossible decision for the ever-empathetic nurse: sacrifice personal safety or risk patient bed sores?
 Burnout 
Nursing is emotionally and physically exhausting with proper patient ratios. The more understaffed shifts nurses are forced to endure, the faster they will experience burnout. Burnout costs nurses their careers and facilities an average of $60k to replace RNs.
 Patient (Dis)satisfaction 
A facility’s potential to attract and retain patients is directly connected to customer feedback. The longer patients wait for pain medication or assessments, the more likely they are to rate their hospital experience poorly. Therefore, a hospital’s actual revenue potential lies in the

...Achieving the right staffing levels requires nurses and management working together. Adding additional Registered Nurse (RN) hours to unit staffing has been shown to reduce the relative risk of adverse patient events, such as infection and bleeding. Reducing medical errors is also important from a financial perspective...

—RNAction

Why we created the NurseGrid Network

While the nurse shortage is global and there are no quick-fix solutions, millions of dollars in losses are at stake when administrators gamble with staffing levels and, ultimately, patient safety. 

What hospitals can control today is the nursing environment: modernizing processes, buying nurse-friendly technology, fortifying support and leadership – factors that can minimize avoidable open shifts.

NurseGrid supports and strengthens the nursing corps by developing flexible technology that addresses understaffing. In providing personal and departmental tools that add transparency and boost productivity, we are treating the root causes of short-shifts.

Decrease frustration and call-outs by preventing last-minute “sick” calls.

 Transparency
Maintain a fully updated, real-time schedule that staff can access 24/7 and plan their lives around accuracy.
 Reliability
Provide managers a tool that turns process hours into minutes. Fill open shifts with an instant app notification. Distribute the schedule instantly. Receive and approve swaps instantly. Reliable staff require a reliable work schedule.
 Flexibility 
From department charges to system coordinators, NurseGrid works at every level to do one thing better than any other company in healthcare: help fill last-minute open shifts. From internal staff to regional per diem resources, NurseGrid is plugged into your nursing community.

Cloud technology that is easy to implement, adopt, and use. Smart notifications that filter the noise off-duty nurses experience. The features and benefits are unparalleled.

We have written on nurse empowerment and how administrators and nursing leaders can better utilize their nursing corps to redesign the healthcare experience. We have also given health systems a new strategy in avoiding understaffing and unnecessary overtime: use NurseGrid to contact qualified staff to cover openings faster and more efficiently than calls, texts, or emails.