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How to Give Nurses More Time at the Bedside

Posted by Troy Kenyon on Aug 13, 2014 2:13:00 PM

In Departmental Communication, Equipment Hoarding

When nurses spend more of their time at the bedside, patients are less likely to suffer falls, infections and medication errors, and are more likely to be satisfied with their care. This may seem like an intuitively simple task; when nurses are able to do their jobs, patients are well taken care of and safe. But what happens when you pile on searching for equipment, supplies, lab samples, etc. on top of nurses’ job description? Nurses Shift, Aiming for More Time with Patients by Laura Landro, outlines how important it is to free up nurses to do what they do best: maintaining an efficient environment of care for their patients. You’re probably thinking that this isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea and that there is no way to pull nurses away from equipment chasing. While the idea itself may not be ground-breaking, how Novant Health is making it happen may just be.

Efficient Workflow Increases Time at the Bedside

Novant Health, (full disclosure – Novant is a long time Mainspring client) is the key subject of Ms. Landro’s article.  Novant set out several years ago to increase the amount of time nurses are spending with patients more than 70% by 2015. This is a commendable goal and a testament to Novant’s patient commitment seeing as they have already totaled over 2.5 times the amount of patient interaction. 

bedside_hours_per_shift_statsWhat really caught my attention was what was going on behind the numbers. How did Novant stimulate such a drastic change? It was evident that they weren’t relying on a mass of healthcare consultants to swoop in and save the day, nor did they choose to invest in a Real-Time Location System – the benefits of which are definitely inconclusive at best. Instead, Novant took the less glamourous, but far more effective, route of rolling up their sleeves and actually focusing on inefficient workflows throughout the environment of care. By identifying root problems that were impacting nurses’ time, Novant was able to reengineer their process to maximize time at the bedside. Some of their specific outcomes included providing access to information directly in the patients’ rooms as well as developing smarter distribution strategies for supplies, medications, etc. 

One Place for Everything

In the interview that accompanies the article, Ms. Landro talks about how in the past, a nurse might have to track down the doctor, track down the X-Ray and track down the lab results, all in seven different places.  Now they have a single electronic record available in the patient’s room – a big piece of how Novant increased nurse time with patients.  This concept of one place to go for all of your patient needs is critical to effective workflow.  More and more, hospitals are able to expand that concept beyond their Electronic Medical Record by creating a single platform to manage all of their patient support services as well. Nurses are able to find out everything they need to know about a patient, treat them with the correct equipment, and ensure their needs are fulfilled– all through a single request platform.  That means that not only are your patients therapies and medications efficiently managed, but so is all of the equipment, supplies, lab samples, transportation  and all of the other “stuff” that is handled by patient support services.      

“No Way We Can Do That in My Hospital”

We get it. The path ahead may seem so dark and full of obstacles that the more appealing route is to turn back. You may be thinking “Nope, not in my hospital, that could never happen”. In our line of business, we see the devastating impact of broken workflow every day. When nurses aren’t 100% confident that they will get what they need when they need it, they understandably take matters into their own hands. In high pressure situations, game-time decisions need to be made—especially when equipment doesn’t show up. While Novant’s progress is an incredible accomplishment, the beginning of their journey was nothing out of the ordinary. Yes, every hospital has its nuances, but taking the first step to fixing core inefficiencies drives major time savings for nurses while simultaneously reducing operating expense. Coast to coast, we have seen countless hospitals prove their initial doubts wrong—from small standalone community hospitals all the way to the largest and most complex IDN’s. By targeting key support services workflows and streamlining and automating them in a measured way, any hospital can transform.  Even yours!

Effective Processes and a Collaborative Hospital Environment

Imagine—peace between departments; an environment of collaboration where nurses proactively communicate their needs and support services fulfill them – on time, every time. Building trust between patient support and nursing requires effective interaction between the two teams on a consistent basis. Making this happen is all about efficient workflows and the automation to ensure they remain effective.  It may be hard to believe, but once nursing starts to trust in their teammates in patient support services, they are thrilled to step away from those additional pump-chasing responsibilities.

Chris Hoang, a nurse at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. who is featured in the article, wouldn’t have had to spend his valuable time “hunting down a battery for some equipment” or wheeling equipment around. Instead, a fully-functioning device should have been ready and available in a pre-determined clean equipment area. Chris could have requested what he needed with just a few clicks on a patient room computer, or even a simple iPod Touch, with full confidence that his patient support team would get it there in plenty of time.

For your patients, harmony between departments means a better overall experience in which the quality of care they receive is unrivaled. Sounds like consistently excellent HCAHPS scores to me.

Whether you are a Novant-like institution and already making impressive strides toward improving nurse-patient time, or you are at the beginning of this vital journey, considering the very real impact of building automated patient support services is the key to transforming your hospital. Stop chasing equipment around in circles and start driving additional nurse time at the bedside today.

Automating Patient Support Services