For every two nurses who were burned out pre-pandemic, there are now nine reaching that exhaustive level. According to a survey from the American Nurses Foundation, self-reported burnout among nurses increased 350% between August 2020 and July 2021.

The nursing profession across the entire United States is in a critical state, facing short staffing and burnout. Health workers are feeling “exhausted, helpless, and heartbroken,” according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s advisory addressing health worker burnout.

Murthy’s advisory indicates the turnover rate for nurses is costing the healthcare field $9 billion, or $2,143 per registered nurse in the United States. The consequences of this crisis will ripple throughout healthcare and can lead to poor patient outcomes, increased admissions or re-admissions, compounded patient frustration and more.

The care at home industry needs to reassess how our nursing staff is delegated and how we might redirect the development of plans of care for patients.

How to lighten nurses’ to-do lists

The first step is to analyze the day-to-day burden of the nursing team and determine which tasks typically assumed by nurses could be directed elsewhere. Other members of the interdisciplinary team and effective technology can supplement the nursing team’s work, or sometimes even better serve patients’ specific needs.

  1. Utilize the skill set of social workers.
    Social workers are well-trained to guide the patient toward support. They can support the work of nurses by helping patients connect with community resources, transportation and making medical appointments, among other holistic tasks.
  2. Train home health aides to the top of their skill level.

When properly trained, aides can change simple dressings, assess skin areas, report abnormal findings to the nurse, take vital signs and other simple nursing tasks. The upfront cost in time and effort to train home health aides effectively could be regained many times over in the efficiency improvement for registered nurses.

3. Seek support from dietitians.

Dietitians can address dietary needs and teach patients about their dietary plan more efficiently — and often more effectively — than nurses. In this case, seeking the support of dietitians for patients with specific dietary needs takes tasks off the shoulders of overworked nurses and provides higher quality care for patients.

4. Lean on expertise of respiratory therapists.

Respiratory therapists can perform respiratory assessments for patients. These specialized clinicians are highly skilled in teaching breathing exercises and addressing oxygen issues and concerns.

5. Supplement nursing tasks with remote care monitoring.
Remote care monitoring can augment the nursing function with clinical data collection even when a nurse is not present in the home. This can play a huge role in ensuring outcomes are reflective of an appropriate plan for the patient.

Identifying the skills of the interdisciplinary team members could allow for more patients to be seen by a single nurse. Spreading the nurses’ load can reduce stress, improve morale and promote staff retention.

Additionally, empowering other clinicians to take on more responsibility within their discipline creates stronger teams and enhances care coordination. These simple steps could revolutionize care at home and create a true healthcare team working toward positive patient outcomes.

Arlene Maxim, RN, is a veteran nurse and home health consultant with Axxess.