As patient volumes return to pre-pandemic levels, nurse turnover has doubled and half report feelings of burnout, according to a new report from Vizient, Inc. and Vaya Workforce. In addition, researchers found that while contract labor utilization continues to surge, the amount of time nurses are able to spend with patients dropped earlier this year to its lowest level since before the pandemic.
Employment data spanning April 2019-June 2022 from the Vizient Operational Data Base (ODB), which contains data from 650 healthcare facilities representing over 164,000 nurses show a 20% increase in nurse overtime hours. The ODB also shows overtime doubling during that same period from approximately 4% to 8% for licensed nursing staff. Taken together with a 2022 benchmark from Safe and Reliable Healthcare of more than 26,000 nurses finding 50% have feelings of burnout, the report serves as a wakeup call for healthcare leaders.
“Workforce challenges are top of mind for nearly every hospital and health system leader right now, especially when it comes to nurses. We’re seeing data that patients are staying in the hospital half a day longer on average than pre-pandemic levels. Combine that with fewer nurses and more patients, and the challenges compound,” said Eric Burch, RN, MBA, FACHE, executive principal at Vizient and former nurse executive. “What the data tells us is the need for a balanced approach to integrating traditionally short-term stopgaps into long-term strategies, like contract labor and flexible scheduling. Investing too little in these strategies leads to prolonged burnout and turnover, while investing too heavily strains already-struggling financial margins.”
Many hospitals and health systems continue to rely on contract labor to fill vacancies. According to Vaya Workforce, a leader in contract labor staffing, approximately 28,000 travel nurse jobs are currently open compared to 8,700 openings on average in 2019. Vaya’s data is representative of close to 80% of the total market. Vaya also forecasts demand for travel nurses to remain at least 20% above pre-pandemic levels throughout 2023. These predictions are based on historical travel demand, economic variables, acute care hospital census, nursing core vacancies and other public and private data sets.
“Shifting the relationship between hospitals and their staffing provider from transactional to strategic can be mutually beneficial – the healthcare organization gains more value in the form of market insights, expertise and opportunities for cost mitigation while the staffing provider achieves a deeper understanding of the member’s workforce goals, allowing them to customize delivery and deepen their relationship.” said Melanie Bell, MSN, RN, CENP, senior vice president at Vaya Workforce and former nursing leader.
The report also provides near-term and long-term strategies for addressing nurse workforce shortages. Future editions will include insights on clinical and non-clinical staff and will be posted to Vizient’s website.