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Improving Nurse Engagement & the Bottom Line: How Better Staffing Impacts Multiple Outcomes

By Ramiro Roman  
   January 09, 2017

Does the issue of staff engagement at your organization cause you to lose sleep? If so, you’re not alone. When HealthLeaders Media recently asked 169 healthcare executives, “What keeps you up at night when thinking about the state of workforce/labor management at your organization?” 55% said staff engagement.

Nurses make up the largest single component of hospital staff and are the primary providers of patient care within the hospital, making them a major driver of clinical quality and patient outcomes (more on the impact of your staff on patient outcomes in this whitepaper). And, with headlines like “The U.S. is Running Out of Nurses” and “Why Is the U.S. Perpetually Short of Nurses?” it’s not surprising that nurse engagement is a top priority for healthcare leaders.

In addition, labor accounts for more than half of the typical health system’s operating costs1, making labor cost containment critical to any health system’s success.

Better scheduling processes, along with the use of innovative technology, can help health systems implement staffing strategies that benefit staff, patients and the bottom line.


Engagement and cost containment

When it comes to staffing, you don’t have to choose between nurse engagement and labor cost containment. In fact, we encourage our clients to focus on staffing optimization strategies that boost both morale and the bottom line…while improving patient outcomes.  (Learn how other organizations are implementing these strategies and the results they are seeing.) Health systems are now expecting more from their workforce management technology, requiring solutions that help turn their workforce data into better outcomes. The key to staffing decisions that make employees, patients and the CFO happy is ensuring you have the right data, delivered to the right people, at the right time. Here are some examples:

  • Collaborative open shift management across the enterprise.  With changes in patient census and acuity, along with sick call ins from staff, open shifts are inevitable. Staffing-savvy health systems use a variety of strategies to fill open shifts, including developing an internal resource pools and empowering nurses to do self-directed floating. One critical success factor that spans all successful open shift management strategies is taking an enterprise-wide approach to filling shifts. We’ve seen organizations save millions of dollars by using their technology to view staffing needs across all units and facilities, then using resources from within their own enterprise to meet those needs. In addition, internal staff appreciate more involvement in the process, giving them the flexibility to voluntarily pick up extra shifts that they’re willing and qualified to work.

  • Managing productivity and overtime proactively. Traditionally, health systems have looked at overtime and productivity after the shift is over, often at the end of the pay period. That retrospective approach doesn’t allow for correction of the issues, which not only hurts the bottom line but also impact morale. Nurses working shifts of 13 hours or more are 2.7 times more likely to be burnt out, 2.38 times more likely to be dissatisfied in their jobs, and 2.57 times more likely to intend to leave their job in the next year than nurses who work 8-9 hours2.

    Instead of relying on the traditional retroactive approach, use your workforce data to provide managers and staffing coordinators with access to information about potential overtime and productivity issues before and during each shift so that problems can be corrected proactively.

  • Predictive scheduling based on patient need. Using census and acuity data as the foundation of schedule creation leads to more accurate schedules, with fewer instances of under- and over-staffing.  That gives nurses more predictability about when they’re going to work, with fewer last minute schedule changes. In addition, nurse/patient assignments can be more data-driven with balanced staff workloads, which satisfies employees and elevates the level of care.

Key Takeaway

Expect more from your staffing strategies, processes and systems. Rely on innovative technology to empower staff to be part of the scheduling process, allowing your organization to achieve labor cost containment and greater staff engagement while improving the patient experience.


2 Stimpfel, Amy, et al. The Longer The Shifts For Hospital Nurses, The Higher The Levels Of Burnout And Patient Dissatisfaction. Health Affairs, 31, no. 11 (2012): 2501-2509.

General Manager
Workforce Management, GE Healthcare Digital

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