How Tech Can Help Ease the Burden on Canada’s Nurses

The nursing shortage is stretching care teams to their limits. Technology can help harmonize workflows, automate documentation tasks and simplify communication to give nurses time back to spend with their patients.

The impact of the pandemic has added to the already growing shortage of nurses in Canada. While nurses remain the largest group of professionals working within the Canadian healthcare system,1 the overwhelming burden of the pandemic years has caused many nurses to reduce their hours or leave the profession entirely. A recent survey suggests that as many as 20% of early career Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners in Ontario are already considering a career change.

That nurses are in short supply should come as no big surprise, considering how many nurses today routinely find themselves working longer hours in understaffed units with an influx of higher acuity patients. Technology alone is of course not a panacea for the nursing shortage burden. However, when put in the hands of all care and support team members, it can help to offset some activities so nurses can focus on patient care.

Here are three ways technology has proven to help ease the stress on nurses:

1. Making communication easier.

Nurses spend a considerable amount of time during each shift communicating with other members of their team to coordinate patient care. Returning pages and phone calls through disconnected systems is time consuming and can also lead to gaps and communications failures. Introducing a unified clinical communication and collaboration platform can bring those necessary touch points together in one place, making it faster and simpler to share patient updates, flag new orders and more. Inefficient communication impacts healthcare providers across the board, with 25% of Canadian healthcare facilities, colleges and associations citing communication as a leading challenge impacting patient safety or healthcare errors.3 After implementing a nursing communication platform, one hospital saw that nurses reduced time spent on phone calls by 82%.4 Another hospital saw overhead pages drop by 78%.5

2. Managing alarms effectively.

While devices monitor critical information and can detect a patient’s physiological changes, the volume of information they produce causes a familiar problem: alarm fatigue. Studies have shown 85%+ of these alarms do not require clinical interventions. As such, with so many alerts coming through, care teams may be inclined to ignore them, lower the volume, or adjust the settings. These actions can have serious consequences in the cases when a clinical intervention is in fact required.6 By linking a care communications platform with an alert and alarm management solution, hospitals can minimize the unnecessary interruptions, while improving response times. Technology can make notifications timelier, more meaningful and reduce time spent resolving alarms. One of the tools provided is a visualization of waveforms and patient clinical context for viewing on smartphones, which puts information in the nurse’s hand to help assess an alarm. Alarm management solutions also feature customizable alarm escalation pathways that empower nurses to adjust thresholds for nonactionable alarms to the individual patient and alarm filtering to smartphones or other devices. Alerts can also be escalated manually or automatically based on availability of the next responsible caregiver.

3. Meaningful connectivity to EMR.

Connecting medical devices to the hospital electronic medical record (EMR) system offers many benefits for patient care, as it provides medical professionals with a comprehensive and centralized view of each patient’s condition and records.7 It can also streamline workflow for nurses, automating manual tasks that give nurses more time to spend with their patients. Realizing the full benefits of charting automation requires a connectivity strategy of engaged clinicians, vendors, and technical resources who are focused on purposeful innovation and removing the unnecessary “clicks.” A 2019 survey found 77% of clinicians identified documenting and charting in the EMR as a source of cognitive overload,8 supporting the need for greater automation.

Learn more about how Baxter Canada’s (and now with Hillrom’s) technology and digital health solutions are enhancing outcomes for both patients and caregivers.