There’s an old adage that complex problems require complex solutions. One major complex problem facing the U.S. today: the health care workforce shortage. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates healthcare organizations will have to fill almost 200,000 open nursing positions every year until 2030. At the current course this is a near-impossible challenge, prompting lawmakers to identify long-term solutions to help expand the pipeline and pool of health care workers.
Unfortunately, health systems today don’t have the luxury of waiting for long-term strategies to take effect—they are feeling the very real consequences of a workforce shortage today. On average the cost of replacing a single RN can cost over $50,000, but anecdotally, the costs can add up to over double that. Children’s hospitals face even higher costs to fill positions that require more specialization and longer onboarding times. There’s been a three-fold increase in pediatric-specific contract labor costs since before the pandemic.
How should children’s hospitals and health systems take action to course-correct the workforce shortage to keep current staff and fill critical staffing holes in the near-term? There’s one root cause of workforce attrition that health systems can address immediately: health care staff don’t feel safe at work.
While staffing challenges increased during the pandemic, so did the workplace violence epidemic. Shockingly, the likelihood of health care workers being exposed to violence is four times higher than prison guards or police officers. Within an already astoundingly unsafe industry, pediatrics ranks among the most dangerous units, behind just psychiatric units and the Emergency Department.
Preventing workplace violence with duress alerting technology is a strategy that all children’s hospitals can employ immediately to positively impact staffing in three core areas:
Reducing burnout and improving retention
A recent study of critical health care staff found 1 in 4 were willing to quit their current jobs due to workplace violence. This trend is supported by a McKinsey report that found a safe work environment was the number one factor influencing nurses’ decisions about whether to stay or leave. The same report found that 1 in 3 nurses planned on living their current roles providing patient care in the next three years, further evidence that focusing on workplace violence prevention is a must-do strategy to prevent near- to mid-term turnover.
Workplace violence and burnout are inextricably linked. One study found that there is a two to four times higher rate of burnout, PTSD, anxiety, and depression in staff who have experienced workplace violence. Children’s hospital staff aren’t immune to the effects of burnout. In fact, female pediatricians have two times higher rates of burnout than the rest of the industry.
Staff duress alerting tools like Commure Strongline help facilitate early intervention and de-escalation of potentially violent incidents, and provide the reporting measures and data that can help guide children’s hospitals violence prevention efforts. Data can help identify which areas of the health system are at highest risk of violence, and by correlation, which units may also be experiencing the highest rates of burnout to help guide and target staff support and retention efforts.
In a time when staff are losing faith that their organizations care about their health and safety (there has been more than a 30% reduction in nurses' belief that hospitals value their health and safety since 2018), providing the tools to keep 100% of staff safe is an effective way to ensure staff believe that their safety is a top priority.
Increasing team member engagement, morale, and performance
On the flip side of burnout, a sense of safety is crucial to driving staff engagement and satisfaction. It’s unacceptable that any healthcare worker should accept workplace violence as part of the job, whether verbal or physical. Children’s hospital staff are super heroes, but they are also human beings. For all humans, safety is a foundational need that must be met before we can feel fulfilled. In other words: staff must feel safe in order to feel connected to their teams, the organization, and want to invest themselves in a lifelong career there.
By keeping staff safe, reducing burnout, and improving retention, children’s hospital staff can better dedicate their full attention and time to patients and their families—solving for many of the frustrations that can lead to violence. When staff feel safer, team member performance and patient outcomes benefit. Health care facilities where nurses rate workplace safety highly also report 52% lower rate of RN-perceived missed care and 27% higher rate of job enjoyment, according to Press Ganey.
Staff duress alerting is becoming table stakes to help boost team morale and engagement. Customers of Commure Strongline report a greater sense of team morale after deploying the solution. Nurses managers play a vital role in the overall effectiveness of any nursing workforce; A nurse manager at one customer organization shared, “My staff loves the system. They know that when they press the button, someone’s coming. The morale in the unit has definitely improved—staff feel like the hospital administration has actually listened to them.”
Bolstering current recruitment efforts
For children’s hospitals, the pandemic caused a reshuffling of pediatric care and dramatically impacted normal operating rhythms—making recruitment efforts more urgent today. Given the rising nature of workplace violence in health care, safety is paramount in the recruitment process. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report, recruiters at hospitals and health systems across the country have started to see the number one question they hear in the recruiting process be: “Are you going to keep me safe?”
At one of Commure Strongline’s customers, nurse managers echo the sentiment, with nurse manager quoted above sharing, “I would not be comfortable working for another organization that did not have this device, because I would feel that they don't take their staff safety seriously.”
While children’s hospitals and health systems feel a financial strain to temporarily fill gaps, a clear boon for recruiting. Knowing that the organization is invested in their safety and wellbeing simply matters to staff.
Course-correct staffing challenges with critical action: Workplace violence prevention
The workforce shortage and staffing strain is a deeply complex issue facing health care but there is a clear path to focus health system efforts in the short- and mid-term. Every health care organization can positively impact a deep root cause underlying key staffing imperatives to maintain a healthy organization: staff safety.
Investing in workplace violence prevention is the most effective strategy to reduce burnout, improve retention, increase staff engagement, morale, and performance, and bolster recruitment efforts. Ensuring the safety of children’s hospital staff is foundational to put a stop to the compounding and costly cycle of staffing issues, violence, and burnout.
Effective workplace violence mitigation and staff protection is a multi-pronged approach that can be greatly enhanced using duress alerting technology, like the Commure Strongline device, that enables early intervention and de-escalation support. If you’re ready to take action against workplace violence, learn more about how you can easily and affordably protect 100% of your staff, across every facility.