Hospitals across the United States are experiencing a critical shortage of frontline staff, a deficit which continues to grow in intensity and impact. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, serious nursing shortages were developing from a variety of factors. A growing number of Baby Boomers need increasing medical support, outpacing nursing school enrollments. Fanned by the pandemic, burnout is at an all time high, both for doctors and nurses. Just last month, the Ohio State University College of Nursing published a study showing 78% of nurses stressed and 65% reporting burnout. “Clinician burnout and mental health problems were an epidemic in nurses and other healthcare clinicians even before the pandemic hit; COVID-19 exacerbated the problem,” said Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing, who also served as lead author on this study.
COVID fueled nursing shortages now extend to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, with 99% of nursing homes and 96% of assisted living facilities now reporting nursing shortages, according to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living. With the Delta variant surge, COVID-19 has posed additional emotional and physical challenges for all frontline medical personnel who had hoped in January that an end was in sight due to new availability of vaccines. Today, many nurses are taking leaves of absence, resigning, or taking less stressful nursing positions in outpatient clinics, teaching, insurance—or are accepting jobs as traveling nurses with significant signing bonuses and much higher pay.
The result of the exodus has exponentially increased the challenges for those who remain on the frontlines to deliver high quality care. Remaining staff are working more hours, taking on more patients, and doing extra tasks that are not typically part of their job descriptions. Doctors, nurses, ancillaries, trainees, and administrators are all trying to cover for as many needs as possible, with everyone having to learn new skills and procedures, and all working longer hours than normal. The frontlines are exhausted and overwhelmed, creating an increased risk of medical errors and driving a vicious cycle of burnout and turnover..
There is an obvious and dire need to quickly recruit, onboard, train, and support medical staff to address the shortages. There is also a need to provide a means of maintaining and improving patient care, and to reduce medical errors which can happen in any overwhelmed system. Changes in medical procedures have been occurring with great frequency due to new learnings about COVID-19, and changes in medical technology also occur rapidly, making it extremely challenging for hospitals and staff to keep up.
Experiencing these challenges and seeing the widening gap between institutional knowledge and bedside practice, I understood that the status quo for team training, communication, and support (in-person meetings, binders, fliers, emails, and intranets) was not working. I established Elemeno Health in 2016 to empower healthcare systems to deliver bite-sized training, communication, and support to frontline healthcare teams, equipping them in the moment with immediately accessible AND consumable information. As a decentralized solution easily customized for each department or team, Elemeno shortens time-to-value for new hires, keeps all staff current, cross-trains staff to fill gaps, decreases burnout and turnover, and reduces care variation– improving staffing, safety, and costs. Moreover, Elemeno provides support and positive recognition for all medical staff, collects quantitative and qualitative feedback, and promotes morale and a sense of sharing amongst personnel– within a hospital and even across institutions.