Travel nurses were in increased demand early in the pandemic, with some making more than $5,000 a week. While demand has declined since April 2020, nurse shortages mean that many healthcare institutions still rely on travel nurses to fill staffing voids.
Numerous nurses are burned out from the pandemic and now the “tripledemic.” Instead of introducing another person inside patient rooms during the pandemic, nurses were told to do more, including accumulating patient information and delivering meals. Multiple staff nurses saw travel nurses making more money while laboring in the same hospital, adding frustration to burnout. These elements are causing some nurses to retire, move from clinics to ambulatory or outpatient care positions, or leave the healthcare industry, exacerbating the ongoing nurse deficiencies.
Travel nurses are presented with more money to go to dense markets in California, Florida, and the Northeast, making it difficult for health procedures in less populated areas to compete. While many healthcare institutions are reducing their use of travel nurses, the hidden effect is reduced services offered. Some health systems are restricting the capacity of their operating rooms and med-Surg bases because they don’t have sufficient nurses to staff-patient beds. Hospitals are closing branches, and multihospital techniques are scaling back labor and delivery assistance to half of their hospitals.
With travel nurses predicted to remain steady amid the ongoing nurse shortages, healthcare institutions must have proper device management and security protocols to safeguard their IT environments from cyber threats while optimizing unique workflows.
Travel Nurses Impacting a Health IT Environment’s Security
Travel nurses are joining new hospital IT environments unknown to an organization’s technologies and techniques, such as electronic health record and IT protocols. Since travel nursing positions are temporary, many people in those positions are less invested in the organization and its security. At the same time, institutions onboarding many travel nurses may cut corners on IT training and security to get people working directly.
Travel nurses may need a device provided by the healthcare organization in proliferation to access apps and programs containing patient data. Suppose an organization doesn’t have a reliable nurse rotation technology program. In that case, travel nurses are presumably using technology intended for permanent workers and being added to the IT environment as if they are full-time. If travel nurses are not familiarized with the organization’s security and device procedures, their devices are more exposed to phishing and other cyberattacks. Some travel nurses may utilize borrowed credentials to quickly access required apps, increasing an organization’s security susceptibility.
How to Preserve Healthcare Security Postures with Travel Nurses
Healthcare institutions must design device programs with travel nurses in mind to safeguard their IT environments. During holidays or other periods of the year when there’s a higher required for travel nurses, clinics can ramp up the program to deploy technology fast and securely. Nevertheless, there’s a cost to these programs, and not all institutions have the budget for layered fleet management to adjust visiting nurses.
Additionally, the best practice is for organizations to maintain the exact security protocols for travel nurses and full-time staff, containing standards compliance, two-factor authentication, and password regulation. Relatively than working around the system to integrate travel nurses fast, IT teams should provide a crash course on the same security protocols needed of staff. It can also be helpful to execute basic video training on security practices, such as identifying phishing attacks and consequences if you accept a phishing email.
Technology to Lessen Healthcare Organizations’ Reliance on Travel Nurses
One way to lower an organization’s dependency on travel nurses is to prevent patients from being accepted to a hospital in the first place. Adequate collection and analysis of social determinants of health data can enhance preventive care and keep patients out of the hospital. Video triage allows nurses to meet with patients effectively to determine whether they should go to a hospital, which can also lower the patient load for nurses.
Another way to reduce reliance on travel nurses without increasing the load on staff nurses is for health IT and clinical leaders to execute technologies that help nurses scale and improve efficiencies. Remote nurse monitoring solutions allow one nurse to observe multiple patients. If a patient needs help, the remote nurse can advise an onsite nurse to visit the patient’s chamber.
This example can transform med-Surg or intensive care unit nurse-to-patient proportions from 1:1 to 1:4 or 1:6, depending on patient conditions—virtual care resolutions such as remote nurse monitoring service load-balance nurse workflows. In expansion, computer vision paired with artificial intelligence permits one nurse to scale up to 20 rooms by combining video, sensors, and AI to observe patients’ vitals and movements.
However, before executing such advanced solutions, healthcare IT and clinical leaders must understand the technologies they already have in place. Healthcare institutions should look for optimizations within their present investments rather than buying the newest shiny plaything for technology’s sake. Ensuring that technology undertakings don’t add to nurse burnout will increase the probability of nurse retention and well-being.
Healthcare institutions also need the proper foundations, such as a strong clinical communication and collaboration platform to support efficient contact between nurses and other care team associates.
Latest technology should be simple and enable nurses to provide uniform, quality care, and it should also lead to better results and data analytics. When federal requirements forced the adoption of the EHR, multiple clinicians pushed back. Even as newly as four years ago, 40 percent of clinicians perceived more issues than benefits with EHRs, according to research from Stanford Medicine.
Institutions should choose technology based on clinical input to ensure prosperous implementation and greater adoption. Platforms are often more straightforward to use than point solutions, and many permit healthcare organizations to add functionality in the future instead of implementing another unfamiliar explanation.