The Human Factor in Healthcare

A recently released 2019 survey of registered nurses shows the growing pressure faced by the millions of nurses who provide care and other services each day. The pressure is coming from three main areas: the worsening nursing shortage, the impact of changing healthcare delivery, and new technology within healthcare.

In addition to the fact the current unemployment rate for nurses is 1%, there are other factors affecting the nursing shortage:

  • 86% of Baby Boomers plan to retire in the next five years
  • 39% of Boomers plan to retire in one year or less
  • 27% of RNs say they’re unlikely to be at their current employer in a year

Because of the nursing shortage, many nurses are asked to work additional shifts, and 22% are actually working another nursing job. This leads to burnout. Nearly one in five RNs say working more than one job negatively impacts their quality of work, while nearly two in five say it negatively affects their quality of life

Another trend that’s getting less attention, but still impacting the pressure on nurses, is changing healthcare delivery. In fact, 41% of nurses report they don’t have enough time to spend with patients. This creates tremendous stress and negatively impacts job satisfaction. As a result, 10% of nurses said they plan to leave direct patient care within the next year.

There have been a lot of stories about new technology coming in healthcare to address the nurse shortage and hopefully make things better for providers. We’re hearing about things like automated pill dispensers for home health, a new virtual bedside assistant, physical therapy administered in virtual reality, and AI to assist in evaluating EKGs. While advancing technology offers a lot of options for expanding care, there are real challenges to integrating these systems into existing healthcare delivery models. And, every device or system presents new questions about data privacy and HIPPA protection.

EHR (electronic health record) systems were meant to help providers spend less time building records and more time with patients, but a new study from the Mayo Clinic found that many of these systems are hard to use and are a driving force in provider burnout. My own personal physician has shared with me that he now spends more time now doing data entry and staring at a computer versus working face-to-face with his patients. That’s not why he got in to medicine. Many nurses feel the same way which is a big reason why 44% of them say they often feel like resigning from their jobs.

Until we solve those problems, research has shown that the human factor in healthcare is a primary driver of patient outcomes. Nurses are saying that the job is stressful and that finding a work/life balance is more important than simply a higher paycheck. But despite all of the challenges nurses face, 81% remain satisfied with their choice of career, and 70% would recommend a nursing career to others.

As we work together to advance the future of healthcare delivery and workforce dynamics, we have an opportunity to ensure that employment conditions and technology help our providers do what they love most—care for their patients. Let’s not forget the crucial role the human factor plays.

search content

subscribe to
the shc blog