This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

August 6, 2003

Nursing Shortage, Mortality Rates, and Your Business

Linda Aiken, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research is an award-winning, highly-respected thought leader. She warns that patients in hospitals are so severely ill that the consequences of not having enough nurses is much more troubling now than in years past.

With reduced stays in hospitals, every patient is dependent, causing concerns that an insufficient number of nurses is extremely hazardous and unsafe. Aiken's research shows that having too few nurses leads to "adverse patient events," including death and/or complications that delay recovery.

Without time and staff to provide the care, hospitals put patients at risk. In the old days, if you didn't have time to provide the care, you could always catch up tomorrow. Now, there's just no time to catch up. Aiken's research suggests that hospitals with certain organizational characteristics (culture, leadership) are much more likely to attract nurses and have better outcomes.

The solution is to recruit the best professional nurses available, then give them autonomy to practice within the areas of their expertise. The institution acknowledges that these highly educated and skilled personnel can make decisions about patients just like doctors make decisions about patients. It's a philosophy where the nurses at the bedside know best what their patients need. Higher nurse involvement frees time for doctors, who are either in the operating room, preparing for the next round of surgeries, or seeing patients in offices. They are literally not in the hospital, at the bedsides. Doctors need excellent nurses to be their eyes and ears.

This example from healthcare (Click here to read the entire report) is indicative of the challenge all employers will face. Workloads and accountability must be pushed to a much lower level in the organization. Otherwise, the volume of work will be too heavy to ever catch up. To avoid mortality, employers will have to hire superior talent, train them well, then let them do their jobs-- -unencumbered. Inhibitors: executives and managers holding control, insufficient highly qualified people at the front-line level, and inadequate training and development. Some employers will be proactive; others will suffer.

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