Healthcare Staffing Report: June 13, 2019

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Nurse leaders expected to play a key role in future healthcare innovation

Traditionally, the healthcare community has looked to physician leaders to drive healthcare innovation through the new models of telehealth, remote monitoring and coordinated care that have emerged. However, the number of US-employed registered nurses reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics outnumbers physicians by four times, implying significant potential for the nursing workforce to also play an important role in driving innovation.

According to peer-reviewed article, Disruption Ahead, Navigating and Leading the Future of Nursing, published in the July 2019 Nursing Administration Quarterly, nurse leaders are expected to play a significant future role in driving disruptive healthcare innovation. The journal noted that nurses are “vital participants in leading change that improves outcomes for patients,” as well as “essential partners in conception and implementation” of both disruptive innovation and innovations of existing products.

According to the journal, nurse leaders play three roles in healthcare disruption: influencer, validator and strategic advisor. As influencers, nurse leaders challenge the status quo and help drive consensus across the organization. As validators, nurse leaders give clinical input as they lead pilots or evaluate new technologies and processes. As strategic advisors, nurse leaders ensure the innovations translate evidence into practice and influence health policy decision making. All three roles can support the legitimization of new disruptive business models within the highly-regulated and risk-averse healthcare environment.

“Nurse leaders are well-connected with other healthcare system constituents and can be catalysts to questioning the prevailing mindset and influencing change. Innovation is often driven by socialization and nurse leaders are positioned to use social capital, group cohesion and cultural influence to implement innovative breakthroughs more rapidly. Nurse leaders can create innovator-friendly environments to improve outcomes and reduce costs,” said April Hansen, RN, the article's co-author, and executive VP of workforce solutions and clinical services at Aya Healthcare.

The redesign of pre-licensure nursing curriculum is an example where nurse leaders can actively innovate to bridge the gap between traditional inpatient acute care learning and the need for practical exposure to a broader range of clinical settings. Academic nursing schools are unlikely to innovate on their own due to a high-stakes focus on NCLEX-RN pass rates.

Said Ryan Fuller, RN, the article's co-author, and strategic initiatives director at Kaiser Permanente, “Nurse leaders from both academia and practice must collaborate as strategic advisors on disruptions to improve new graduate clinical competency as well as workforce readiness to fill gaps in specialty nursing practice. Disruptions must also lower the cost of education and training for both students and health systems.”

Examples of two disruptive technologies that are playing an emerging role in clinical labor innovation are artificial intelligence and virtual reality. In healthcare, AI can potentially use advanced algorithms to inform hiring decisions that lead to better hires and lower turnover. According to Staffing Industry Analysts’ US Healthcare Staffing Recruitment Strategies report, healthcare staffing companies are exploring the use of AI to improve candidate matching, automate processes and decision making, and improve candidate experience and engagement. In nonhealthcare employment sectors, AI is also being incorporated in many parts of the talent acquisition process, including job recommendations, résumé parsing and chat bots, according to SIA’s Artificial Intelligence in Talent Acquisition report. 

In healthcare, virtual reality and augmented reality are beginning to gain traction in nurse onboarding and training. These extended reality technologies have been shown to improve training experiences for users over traditional methods. A recent University of Maryland study demonstrated higher recall and spatial awareness with head-mounted virtual reality displays in comparison to desktop-based learning.

“Nurse leaders may be the ideal champions of AI and VR in clinical labor hiring and training, despite those functions being managed by human resources departments. Nurse leaders should consider participating in vendor demonstrations, creating cross-departmental teams to evaluate products, and beta testing new technologies that present low-risk, high-reward options for healthcare hiring,” Hansen added.

As the role of nurses becomes more complex and dynamic, healthcare staffing firms will need to recruit for the skills and aptitudes required for nurse leaders and nurses to successfully help drive disruptive innovation and change within healthcare organizations.

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