LTC leaders face a future of mounting challenges ranging from rising costs of post-acute labor to navigating the ongoing effects of a pandemic that has had an outsized impact on elderly and disabled populations. But one potential bright spot stands out—the role that post-acute nursing professionals play in shaping the patient experience.
LTC leaders can step confidently into 2023 knowing that a quality-oriented focus on their nurse staffing strategy can pay off in the form of a positive patient experience and better outcomes for their residents and families.
How Nurses Shape Outcomes and a Positive Patient Experience
Your nursing staff, whether employed or float pool, are the primary drivers of the patient experience. Each patient encounter rests almost entirely on the skill of your nursing professionals, largely because each encounter relies on clear communication and nurse attention to patient safety and care quality. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), outlines the nurse’s role in the patient experience:
“From a patient safety perspective, a nurse’s role includes monitoring patients for clinical deterioration, detecting errors and near misses, understanding care processes and weaknesses inherent in some systems, identifying and communicating changes in patient condition, and performing countless other tasks to ensure patients receive high-quality care.”AHRQ
This responsibility is directly related to staffing levels, with multiple studies demonstrating the association between nurse staffing ratios, patient safety, and the risk of patient safety events, morbidity, and mortality. But this is only one facet of the connection between staffing and patient safety. Overall workload has also been found to be connected to patient outcomes. Studies have found that higher levels of patient turnover were associated with an increase in mortality risk, even when staffing levels were considered sufficient. Findings like these mean that LTC leaders will need to push past state and federal minimums and guidelines, exploring their response to management, availability of support staff, skill mix, and settings of care, even looking at staffing on a unit-by-unit or shift-by-shift basis.
Positive Trends in LTC Nursing for 2023
A positive patient experience starts with your staff, which means quality nursing professionals help to ensure you are leading the way for your organization to meet and exceed government standards.
As we move into 2023, we expect to see trends across the post-acute space from LTC leaders who understand the potential that nursing professionals have in reshaping and reimagining the long-term care patient experience and in combating some of the most pressing challenges they face.
Nursing professionals will support positive patient outcomes
Nurses have a profound impact on patients. They provide the most care of any clinician in post-acute settings—while patients only see doctors sporadically, nurses are there all day, every day.
This means a leadership focus on nurse quality that prioritizes timely and evidenced-based care can transform outcomes.
Nurse staffing strategies will encourage referrals
While referral demand is high now, acute care providers are still prioritizing quality in their referral decisions to post-acute facilities. Quality is a major consideration for all post-acute referrals—the more Do Not Return (DNR) orders and reports to the Department of Public Health an organization receives, the more their reputation can suffer.
This can quickly translate to more internal audits, poor word of mouth, and negative impacts to your star ratings. Quality care is going to be central to keeping complaints low and star ratings high.
Staffing choices will strengthen LTC revenues and bottom lines
The saying, “If you didn’t document it, you didn’t do it,“ holds as true as ever for facilities. If you aren’t documenting care, you aren’t being reimbursed.
Nursing assistants especially are critical in supporting good documentation—which is why solid documentation practices will be so important. They are what ultimately drive referrals and keep census high. Expect to see forward-thinking LTC leaders investing in documentation of proactive evidence-based treatments (e.g. regular turning to prevent pressure ulcers) and care to help increase revenue, drive efficiency, and maintain a healthy bottom line.
Communication skills will pay off
A 2014 study of nursing home staff found that effective communication was related to a higher quality of life for patients and a decrease in aggression (both verbal and physical) and depression in residents. It cites previous studies that found that communication skills training can improve the communication of nursing aides with residents. The study found that, when nursing aides were trained on communication with individual residents (short instructions, biographical statements, and positive speech), they as nurses also had less caregiver distress.
Keep an eye out for colleagues who are using communication training of their employed and float pool nursing staff to simultaneously address nurse burnout while improving quality of care.
As you build out your nurse staffing strategy for 2023, don’t forget that with the right approach you can achieve the same positive outcomes in communication, patient safety, and the patient experience with float pool staff as you do with your full-time nurses. To learn more about creating your staffing strategy, start here.
Megan is a business writer with over 15 years of experience in healthcare enterprise technology. She holds an MBA and B.S. in Healthcare Administration. She now keeps an ongoing eye on the latest developments and successes in healthcare admin technology and the people who use it to build a better world for providers, patients, and their care communities.