How Virtual Nursing is Addressing the Nurse Shortage Problem
The global healthcare industry faces a significant challenge: a shortage of healthcare professionals, especially nurses. This nurse shortage, attributed to a combination of factors including an aging nursing population, increased demand for healthcare services, an increasingly challenging and chaotic work environment, and a consolidation of the nursing pipeline, has far-reaching implications for patient care and the overall healthcare system. Fortunately, technological innovations have paved the way to mitigate this somewhat: virtual nursing. In this blog, we will delve into how virtual nursing is beginning to address the nurse shortage problem and revolutionize healthcare delivery.
Extending the Reach of Nursing Professionals
Virtual nursing leverages technology to extend the reach of nurses in caring for their patients, regardless of geographical distances. Despite the unique differences in utilizing virtual nursing for inpatients or home care, some similar principles remain. Virtual nursing allows a single nurse to effectively manage and monitor patients in various locations without needing physical presence. By eliminating location constraints, virtual nursing allows fewer nurses to care for more patients remotely.
In the home care setting, virtual nursing can be especially valuable in rural or medically underserved areas with limited access to healthcare services. Virtual nursing platforms enable nursing professionals to provide medication management, education, care management, and support to patients who may not have easy access to a local healthcare facility.
In inpatient settings, virtual nurses support the direct care nurses, which is especially helpful when organizations are utilizing high numbers of new graduate nurses. This provides on-demand mentoring and support, improving the skills and competence of the developing new nurse and improving the safety of the care delivered, providing better patient outcomes. This also allows for a better experience for the new nurse, ideally improving skill-building retention rates and reducing turnover, which can further contribute to the nurse shortage.
Optimizing Nursing Workflows
In many healthcare settings, nurses spend significant time on administrative tasks, especially required documentation (which feels like data entry). Virtual nursing can streamline these workflows, enabling onsite nurses to focus more on direct patient care and clinical decision-making while utilizing virtual nurses to concentrate on admission, discharge, and transfer documentation. The virtual nurses’ regular interface with the EHR allows the direct care nurses to focus on their patients and allocate their time more efficiently.
24/7 Availability and Flexibility
In the home care setting, virtual nursing transcends the constraints of traditional office hours. When virtual nursing is staffed as a 24/7 service, it can provide care and support to patients around the clock, ensuring that healthcare services are available when patients need them the most. This flexibility not only improves patient outcomes but also optimizes the utilization of nursing professionals.
Virtual nursing is opening an entirely new practice area in nursing. While it requires a few years of experience to safely practice as a virtual nurse, it is carving the path for a new generation of nurses. Ideally, nurses with at least three years of experience serve as VNs and consistently practice in the virtual setting. Rotating all nurses through the “command center” is not ideal as this is a different kind of nursing practice that requires skill building to become proficient.
Facilitating Nurse Education and Training
Addressing the nurse shortage requires retaining existing nurses and attracting new individuals to the profession. Technology-augmented healthcare platforms can play a pivotal role in attracting younger nurses who are tech natives looking for more technology integrated with patient care.
Additionally, experienced nurses can provide guidance and mentorship on demand and to multiple individuals each shift through virtual platforms. This mentorship model enhances the learning experience for new nurses and can accelerate their transition to professional practice.
Reducing Burnout and Turnover
Nurse burnout and high turnover rates are often exacerbated by heavy workloads and stressors associated with the shortage of nursing staff. Virtual nursing addresses these challenges by offering a more flexible and balanced approach to healthcare delivery. Nurses can offload the time-intensive administrative burden of documentation, particularly around admission, discharge, and transfer documentation. Freeing nurses to spend more time with their patients will improve nursing satisfaction and reinforce why nurses entered the profession.
Moreover, virtual nursing empowers nurses to focus on tasks that align with their strengths and expertise. By automating routine tasks and administrative responsibilities, nurses can allocate more time to patient interactions and critical decision-making, increasing job satisfaction and reducing burnout rates. This also promotes nurses completing their work at the end of their shift and getting out on time. All of these results also have the effect of lessening the nurse shortage.
Enhancing Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Virtual nursing fosters interdisciplinary collaboration among healthcare professionals. Through virtual communication channels, nurses can easily connect with physicians, specialists, pharmacists, and other team members to discuss patient care, share insights, and coordinate care management. This collaboration ensures that patients receive comprehensive and coordinated care more efficiently, leading to better outcomes and reducing the strain on nursing staff.
The nurse shortage is a long-term complex challenge that demands innovative solutions. Virtual nursing is emerging as a transformative strategy that addresses the shortage and enhances patient care, nurse satisfaction, and healthcare efficiency. Virtual nursing is a critical tool in shaping the future of healthcare delivery by extending the reach of nursing professionals, optimizing workflows, offering 24/7 availability, facilitating mentoring, reducing burnout, and enhancing collaboration. As technology evolves, virtual nursing will become even more sophisticated, further solidifying its role in mitigating the nurse shortage while ensuring quality care for patients worldwide.