While our healthcare system continues to assess and identify barriers to nursing staff and patient satisfaction outcomes, we must consider the roles and responsibilities of nurses and the environments in which we force nurses to work in. In this article, we will identify why nurse staff and patient satisfaction continue to be a challenge, and provide recommendations for corrective action.
Identifying Barriers to Satisfaction
Nurses are the “face” of the healthcare institution in which they work and are often burdened with managing all nursing staff and patient discrepancies, in addition to their clinical and administrative responsibilities. Since nurses spend the most time with patients in a hospital setting, nurses are able to build relationships with patients that allows for holistic assessment data collection, individualizing treatment plans, and establishing trust, which are three components that are unambiguous to the discipline of nursing.
It is this distinctive relationship that allows nurses to collect patient data, interpret the data to develop personalized plans of care, implement treatment, and evaluate the effectiveness of treatments — after they have first worked diligently to solace their overwhelmed colleagues and bring reassurance to their anxious and upset patient(s).
Additionally, nurses are widely utilized by hospitals to develop, implement and evaluate new-hire training programs, manage clinician competencies and credentialing, regulate departmental budgets, interview, hire and terminate employees, create institutional policies and protocols, direct equipment inventory and repairs guidelines, perform janitorial duties, oversee hospital ward operations, initiate, analyze and interpret research to improve outcomes, uphold quality assurance measures, update computerized documentation processes, and fill in as needed for social work, case management, physical therapy, speech language therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, massage therapy, spiritual therapy, dietary services, etc. The list goes on and on (Jenkins, 2015).
Due to the fact that nurses have historically demonstrated a willingness to “wear too many hats”, hospital administration holds nursing with the heavy burden of “getting the job done”, regardless of the requirements. It is for this reason that satisfaction levels from both patients as well as nursing staff are on the steady decline. One could only assume that if nurses were provided with fewer patients, that all of the above mentioned nursing responsibilities could be managed at a more effective pace, and patients would receive higher quality care from the nursing staff.
Implementing Strategies to Improve Satisfaction
Until we have federally supported minimum staffing ratio laws to help nurses better care for our patients, satisfaction levels will remain low. However, there are a few short-term strategies that nurses can implement to keep satisfaction levels from plummeting even further.
Here are three strategies that you may find helpful in improving satisfaction levels:
Integrating effective patient to provider communication efforts – can improve satisfaction levels tremendously. Since nurses know that patients are often overwhelmed with fear and doubt, it is crucial for nurses to work with their patients in a way that exemplifies compassion and empathy. For example, one way nurses can make their patients feel important is by asking their patients if they can take a seat while discussing their plan of care, or when performing an interview assessment. This simple act of sitting while collecting patient data is often viewed as a positive experience by patients (Heath, 2017).
Boosting nursing staff teamwork, and patient care coordination – allows nurses to rely on their colleagues to get the job done, despite staffing shortages. Although this is a very short-term solution that will quickly phase out if overall staffing is not improved, it can be utilized as an effective strategy to provide safe and effective patient care. Boosting nursing staff teamwork, and patient care coordination has been shown to improve both nursing staff satisfaction, as well as patient satisfaction.
Engaging nursing staff and investing in nursing staff– helps to create organizational camaraderie and improves nurse retention. Nurses work very hard at taking care of patients, and often times they feel unappreciated by their employers. When healthcare facilities keep their nursing staff engaged, informed, and make valuable investments into their nursing staff, job satisfaction and retention rates improve. Research shows that when nurses are happy, and empowered, they are more likely to help facilities make more money by improving patient satisfaction scores, and reducing other costs such as absenteeism, turnover, and adverse patient care events..
Holding Nurse Leaders and Healthcare Facility Administration Accountable
According to Carolyn Buppert, MSN, JD (2017), 53% of nurses said that at the end of a typical shift, they did not feel satisfied about the care they had provided, and 57% believe that patient care is suffering. Nurses also believe short staffing affects staff, patients, and families in the following ways:
- Nurse morale is lower
- Patient satisfaction is lower
- Nurses transfer or quit
- More mistakes are made
- Physicians/other staff complain
- Documentation is incomplete
In response, nurses in several parts of the country have been protesting inadequate staffing. In January 2017, organized protests took place in California and Pennsylvania. In March 2017, nurses at a Philadelphia-area hospital had a walk-out over staffing issues. Nurses at Kaiser in California and in St. Louis picketed their own hospitals last year to draw attention to staffing levels they said put patients at risk. New York City nurses protested unsafe staffing by going on strike, costing NYC hospitals hundreds of thousands of dollars in agency nurse salary. Most recently, on April 26th, 2018 over 900 nurses assembled in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC to rally for minimum staffing ratio legislation. These are all examples of how nurses are holding nurse leaders and healthcare facility administration accountable for adequate staffing.
If you have any recommendations on strategies to improve nurse and patient satisfaction, please contribute to this discussion by leaving your thoughts below in the comments section.
Buppert, C. (2017, April 4). What’s Being Done About Nurse Staffing? Retrieved 9/30/2018, from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/877838
Heath, S. (2017, November 6). 3 Tips for Nurses to Improve Patient Satisfaction, Experience. Retrieved 9/30/2018, from https://patientengagementhit.com/news/3-tips-for-nurses-to-improve-patient-satisfaction-experience
Jenkins, D. K. (2015, June 10). Customer service in healthcare: Why hospitals are holding nurses accountable for happy patients. Retrieved 9/30/2018, from http://thenursespeak.com/customer-service-in-healthcare-why-hosptials-are-holding-nurses-accountable-for-unhappy-patients/