As the coronavirus pandemic progresses, the health and safety of our frontline healthcare workers is critical to maintaining the effectiveness of the overall healthcare system. Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, hospitals and healthcare facilities have heightened their focus on protecting nurses and caregivers and are implementing measures to mitigate the risks of infection.
However, infection is not the only risk care teams are facing. Doctors, nurses, and other caregivers must also be protected from a variety of other workplace safety issues including patient violence, verbal abuse, accidents, and injuries. The risks for all of these have also increased due to heightened stress and anxiety caused by the virus.
Common Risks to Care Teams
According to a recent study by the American Nurses Association, 25 percent of nurses have reported being physically assaulted while on the job. Meanwhile, OSHA found that more than 50 percent of registered nurses and nursing students have faced verbal abuse. Furthermore, the CDC reports that nurses often a target of workplace violence–more so than any other category of healthcare workers.
Staffing shortages have also lead to increased stress and overwork; nurses named both of these issues as top health concerns in a recent American Nurses Association Survey. When nurses are burnt-out or must work shifts that are short-staffed, there is a higher risk of accidents and injuries when assisting patients.
Creating a Safe, Empowering Work Environment
With an increasing number of patients depending on the effectiveness of our healthcare system, care team safety has never been more critical. Healthcare organizations must take action now to create a safe and empowering work environment that will lead to better outcomes patients and healthcare workers alike.
Healthcare facilities can protect care team safety by focusing on three primary actions: 1) improving communication and collaboration, 2) increasing staff support and education, and 3) implementing safety-driven technology. Following are a few ways mobile technology can support each of these areas.
1. Improve Communication and Collaboration
The right communication and collaboration tools can help nurses deliver better quality care to patients while mitigating on-the-job risks. For example, purpose-built smartphones with geo-location technology can help managers track and monitor staff, manage scheduling, and quickly send backup to assist nurses when additional help is needed. In addition, mobile technology that integrates with critical systems–including nurse call systems, electronic health records (EHR), and workflow applications–help clinicians save time, eliminate errors, and make more informed decisions at the point of care.
The National Database of Nursing Quality (NDNQI) surveyed 315,000 RNs in 888 US hospitals to identify improvements to healthcare work environments. The study revealed a clear driver of success: effective teamwork between nursing leadership and staff at the care-unit level. In addition, the study found that care teams achieve the best results when leaders create a work environment where nurses can easily access the essential resources, tools, and services they need to be successful.
2. Increase Staff Support and Education
Beyond improving team communication and collaboration, healthcare organizations will need to empower clinicians in new ways to enhance their skills, knowledge, and confidence on the job. For example, mobile phones can become a vehicle for secure, on-demand learning and other virtual tools that can be accessed at a patient’s bedside. Having these resources at a nurse’s fingertips can help caregivers alleviate patient fears and frustrations, while clarifying care needs and instructions.
Not only do these support tools promote better healing and more successful outcomes for the patient, but empowering the caregiver to maintain more control over high-anxiety situations can also improve clinician confidence and safety. Healthcare organizations can also use mobile devices to provide training and educational resources for caregivers to enhance their clinical skills and knowledge.
3. Implement Safety-driven Technology
Creating a safer work environment comes down to implementing reliable safety measures and technologies to protect clinical caregivers if they are in a dangerous situation. For example, advanced mobile solutions are equipped with safety features like an easy-to-activate duress button that instantly connects the user with security professionals.
In addition, real-time location tracking and activity sensors can alert team leaders to potential problems. For example, a phone with an integrated accelerometer can detect if a nurse is running or not moving, which could indicate that he/she is in danger. These capabilities can be integrated into existing systems and emergency protocols to ensure timely and effective responses to dangerous situations.
Hospitals and healthcare organizations have already made investments in technology. Major events, like the COVID-19 pandemic, highlight the importance of advanced communication technology to increase care team safety. Learn more about how mobile technology is empowering healthcare workers during this crisis.
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