Nurse staffing think tank develops toolkit to address staffing crisis

By Carol Davis

Actionable and immediate strategies for staffing in acute and critical care practice have been unveiled by a specially formed think tank to address the nurse staffing crisis.

The Nurse Staffing Think Tank, a diverse group of nursing leaders, frontline nurses, CEOs, chief financial officers, human resources executives, and patient safety representatives, identified six priority areas that need urgent action.

It has published a set of priorities and recommendations that provide immediate strategies for those six priority areas that can be feasibly implemented in the short term (12-18 months) to help address the nurse staffing crisis.

The six priority areas are:

  1. Healthy work environment
  2. Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  3. Work schedule flexibility
  4. Stress injury continuum
  5. Innovative care delivery models
  6. Total compensation

The recommendations, actions, and measurable outcomes for implementing each priority are now available on the Nurse Staffing Think Tank web page for healthcare leaders to access.

The Nurse Staffing Think Tank was launched by Partners for Nurse Staffing, a collaboration between the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), American Nurses Association (ANA), American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL), Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).

Appropriate nurse staffing has been a challenge for decades. Nurses, healthcare leaders, and policymakers have attempted varied approaches, but consistent, effective solutions have remained elusive, and indeed made more challenging by the COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on the value of nurses, and the nursing workforce,” said Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, director of nursing programs for ANA. “At the same time, it has accelerated a persistent staffing shortage that has plagued the profession for decades toward a crisis. Without swift and sufficient action, the nation’s nurses, patients, and communities will continue to suffer.”

Creating the plan

The Nurse Staffing Think Tank convened six times between January and March 2022 to tackle a wide range of issues related to the nurse staffing crisis.

Major topics included the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing, the importance of trust and transparency to build healthy work environments, the connection between nurses’ well-being and staff retention, the best ways to use scheduling flexibility, compensation, delivery models, and other related issues.

Insights from the Nurse Staffing Think Tank will guide the efforts of the Nurse Staffing Task Force, which launched this month and will drive dialogue on a national scale and bring together a wide range of healthcare leaders and advocates to develop mid-range to long-term sustainable solutions to the nurse staffing crisis.

“Addressing workforce challenges is the top priority in healthcare. We can’t provide healthcare and services to our communities without our workforce,” said AONL CEO Robyn Begley, DNP, RN, NEA-BC.

“Bringing together those who deliver care and those who ensure sustainability of care delivery is critical to developing outcomes-based staffing models, improving value, and fostering a healthy practice environment to engage nurses and support resilience and well-being,” Begley said.

As demand for health services continues to rise, addressing nurse staffing is critical. An established body of evidence shows that appropriate nurse staffing is correlated with improved patient outcomes and greater satisfaction for both patients and staff.

“Healthcare is a human business, ” said Beth Wathen, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, president of AACN. “Hospitals can add all the rooms, beds and equipment they want, but none of that matters without nurses there to take care of sick patients.”

“For years, usual and accepted staffing models have viewed nursing as an expense, not an investment,” Wathen said, “And yet, there is ample evidence that links appropriate nurse staffing with optimized nursing care and improved patient outcomes.”

Identifying sustainable solutions is a major step to addressing the problem of nurse staffing shortages, said Joseph J. Fifer, FHFMA, CPA, president and CEO of HFMA.

“This group is well equipped to drive actionable solutions, which are urgently needed,” he said.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.