A recent article in the DailyBeast.com shed light on the emerging area of “nurse robotics”. These robots range from automated “carts” that deliver medications to “actroids”, actual physical reproductions of nurses that smile and blink their eyes.
The impetus behind nurse robots is the anticipated shortage of nurses by 2022. According to a study cited by the article, that shortage could amount to one million unfilled jobs. Robotic nurses are expected to help fill the gap. Whether they really can or not is anyone’s guess. Yet it raises the important issue of nurse burn-out, as nurses are expected to care for more patients, for longer time periods and with less back up. No wonder we’re in for a shortage!
While senior care waits for these “nurses” who never tire and never make mistakes, it’s important for long term-care and nursing homes to take care of the very human nurses you have walking your halls today.
Here are five things you need to be doing to support these highly skilled, valuable members of your team:
- Keeping staffing levels optimized. Know what levels you need to maintain and strictly enforce them.
- Avoiding “mandatory overtime”. The American Nurses Association (ANA) warns against this practice. It can lead to medication errors and careless treatment of patients.
- Keeping your nurses safe. The ANA has put together programs to keep nurses safe in the areas of: safe patient handling to reduce back strain, safe needles, and prevention of influenza. Use these programs to keep nurses healthy.
- Enforcing regular breaks, regardless of whether a nurse feels he or she needs one. Recognize the signs of “compassion fatigue”, a very real syndrome that can deplete a nurse of emotion, energy and self-confidence.
- Using technology to reduce or eliminate repetitive, stressful tasks, such as meds passing. Technology exists, such as Talyst’s InSite®, which includes an in-facility dispensing unit and automation for managing, packaging, labeling and delivering “just-in-time” oral solid medication doses.
When they are healthy, both mentally and emotionally, there is nothing more valuable than a skilled nurse. The lives of residents in long-term care facilities depend upon them. By setting support of your nurses as a top priority, long-term care and assisted living communities can continue to attract the best and brightest and keep them longer.
Will robot nurses be able to “fill the gap” and make shortages obsolete, as the article states? Time will tell. But, in the meantime, make sure you are supporting the fantastic and very “real” nurses you have on staff today.