staffing the ICU

While there are more than 3 million registered nurses trained and working in the United States today, there are still shortages. As we see the largest population of elderly people in our history, their needs are taking up a lot of staff. When staffing the ICU, nurses and administrators need to work together to solve the problem.

Here are five ideas for how nurses and facility managers can work together to ensure that ICUs stay properly staffed.

1. Run An Analysis

If you’re dealing with shortages at your ICU, you could be pulling your hair out trying to figure out what the problem is. Perhaps you think you know what the problem is and you want to solve it ASAP. Just like you would for a patient, you need to triage the problems that you have at your ICU.

Create some parameters for an analytic report of where you could be running into problems in your ICU.

The shortages in staffing could come from having inadequate support for your staff, which leads to frustration and burnout. You need to be careful of burnout for all of your staff, as it will lead to poor medical care and dangerous results for your patients.

You could also be expending too many of your resources in the wrong area. Resources need to be allocated to cover events and holiday where you see a spike in visits. You need to streamline intake so that you can provide adequate care that rehabilitates patients quickly.

Keeping one patient on for one day longer than they need to be in your ICU is the start of a backup that could exacerbate a bed shortage.

Since most medical facilities were built in an era with a healthier and smaller population, you need to consider expansion. As part of your analysis, look at whether or not your facility has adequate space.

2. Increase Support

No matter what the conditions are at your facility, you should find new ways to expand support for your staff. Nurses need to have time and space to work as well as support for their own recovery. Overworked staff will make mistakes that could be critical to people dealing with the problems that lead to admission to an ICU.

One of the ways to improve support is to make sure that you’re never short staffed, this means using better scheduling technology. It also means creating a culture of support for one another that will ensure that there is enough care for patients as well as time off for nurses.

If people need childcare, you need to find ways to create resources for that. Many people can’t cover a shift when they have to stay at home and watch young children. If you have a working childcare facility, you could have people come in on short notice.

A facility also needs to provide plenty of vacation. The world of nursing is seeing a shortage in staff which means it’s a worker’s market. They can shop around for the job that will give them the most vacation time.

3. Smart Scheduling Software

When you use smart scheduling software, you can streamline the staffing process at your facility. Smarter scheduling means that you’ll have shifts covered when you need them without having to remember what happened a year before.

Smart scheduling software also allows nursing staff to put in their scheduling limitations in advance. When they have control over their own schedules and can put in their limitations, the person controlling the schedule can easily meet their needs.

Finding the right scheduling software or system takes time but can be invaluable to creating a well-oiled machine of an ICU.

4. Train New Staff Better

Poorly trained staff are more likely to make mistakes. When someone is plagued by mistakes on the job, their morale will be broken. If someone loses their morale about their job, they’ll struggle to excel at it.

When you train your staff well, you give them the opportunity to succeed and find new reasons to love their job.

Well-trained staff will also help to treat patients better. When a staff is well-trained, they’ll help patients to heal faster and rehabilitate quicker. This means that a facility will have more beds open sooner than they would at a place where the staff wasn’t working efficiently.

Take a look at your current training materials and make sure they’re up to all recent changes to HIPAA standards. This will ensure that patient privacy and safety is prioritized and that you can avoid legal trouble.

5. Communicate With Other Hospitals

Space and staffing are major problems that any ICU deals with. If you find yourself running out of space, you need a backup plan.

One way to ensure that you don’t turn anyone away without treatment is that you communicate with other hospitals that might have space. By being in regular conversation with other facilities, you can warn each other of outbreaks or anything that could disrupt your ICU.

If you’re constantly dealing with staff shortages, you need to find alternate ways to staff. There are staffing specialists that can send nurses out to you when you hit a shortage. This can be pricier than hiring full-time staff but allows facilities to be flexible in times of growth.

Staffing the ICU Is a Solvable Challenge

While it will take some work for facilities to come up with solutions for staffing the ICU, it’s a problem that can be solved. With the help of technology and telemedicine, more information can be shared more quickly between patients and staff to improve care. AI will soon be able to take away some of the busy work that nurses need to do so that the nursing shortage can be eliminated.

If you’re an ICU nurse or running a facility, check out our guide for the ways that ICU nurses seek to expand their careers.

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