Increasing efficiency

While the battle over nurse staffing levels rages nationwide, some hospitals are figuring out ways to do more with less. By concentrating on increasing efficiency, they say they are able to increase patient and employee satisfaction without adding additional staff. Some nurses, however, aren’t so sure that factory-born continuous performance improvement (CPI) efforts have a place in healthcare.

“The essence of nursing is much more than a sum of the parts you can observe and write down on a wall full of sticky notes,’ Nellie Munn, RN, a Minnesota-based nurse told The New York Times.

Most nurses support the idea of improving work flow — who wants to spend 20 minutes tracking down a portable commode? — but become leery when they sense the improvements are being made in an effort to trim staff or to increase the number of patients in a nurse’s caseload. Many of the so-called improvements, such as stashing commonly used supplies in or near patient rooms and using whiteboards to facilitate in-room communication, have actually been around for years.

But while nurses are wary of changes that they believe may negatively affect staffing or patient safety, most welcome opportunities to reduce redundancies that take them away from their patients. One recent study, for instance, quantified the amount of time nurses and other clinicians spend waiting to log onto electronic healthcare records. Quality improvement efforts devoted to decreasing log-in times would increase the amount of time available for patient care.

Currently, nurses only spend about 20 to 35 percent of their time in direct patient care. The Transforming Care at the Bedside program, an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, aims to increase that time to 70 percent.

What steps is your hospital or healthcare facility taking to improve efficiency? Do you think the changes help or hinder nurses?


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Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN

Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.

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One Response to Increasing efficiency

  1. I think hospitals are trying to increase efficiency in order to trim staff and have less people working more than caring about actual patient care. As a nursing student, seeing hospitals and dr offices cutting more and more jobs and finding ways to do everything with less workers is upsetting. What’s this about the nursing shortage? What’s this about new nurses being needed? If hospitals are trying to get rid of jobs at every turn this isn’t good for all of us nursing students out to find jobs in a year.