6 tips to cope with short-staffing and a nursing shortage

By: Jennifer Ward

Another kind of nursing shortage is commonly experienced nowadays in the form of being short-staffed. And it is caused by many factors. First, there are times when there are simply shortages of nurses available to a particular area. Or there are more patients than usual or more patients with serious illnesses. Sometimes short staffing cannot be solved or cannot be solved immediately. In cases such as these, make sure to utilize these tips:

  1. Contact the nursing administrator or your immediate supervisor right away.If you realize that you are short-staffed for a shift, this is the first thing you should do. Hopefully he or she can call some other nurses to see if they can come in for an extra shift or to help during the busiest hours. If this is not possible, they might be able to call in some additional nursing assistants and other support staff members.
  2. Emphasize teamwork.Along with other members of the healthcare team, you must work together well to make sure the needs of all patients are met. Nursing supervisors and administrators might need to take on more direct patient contact duties during times when there is a nursing shortage.
  3. Be organized.Everyone needs to know what they are expected to get done during their shift. Nurses should ensure that they have all of the necessary materials with them when performing a procedure for a patient. It is also necessary to prioritize. All nurses must work together to decide exactly what needs to be done first and to determine if there are any tasks that can wait until more nurses come on shift.
  4. Practice good communication.This is essential to avoid frustration and misunderstandings. You do not want any duties to take longer than necessary or to go undone as a result of poor communication. To ensure everything runs smoothly, nursing supervisors must communicate well with their nurses and certified nursing assistants to make sure there is a clear understanding of what to do and what to expect.
  5. Ask family members.They can do some non-medical tasks to help their loved ones. For example, they might prefer to brush their loved one’s hair, rather than having a nurse or nursing assistant do so. You should not, however, discuss any problems regarding short-staffing directly with family members.
  6. Set up a meeting with the other administrators and nurse managers.If you are a nursing administrator or a healthcare manager, you need to identify all problems associated with being understaffed. For example, are there certain shifts when staffing problems are worse than others? You need to all work together to try to figure out why you are short-staffed and if there is anything that can be done to help resolve this kind of nursing shortage.


One thought on “6 tips to cope with short-staffing and a nursing shortage

  1. Good ideas – I really like recruiting the family. I’ve been looking into problems like this, and something that helps without hiring more nurses is looking at when the peak census is. At our hospital, most admissions and discharges come between 3 an 7pm, and that’s when our staffing was the lowest. Also, there are lots of admissions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and census drops on the weekend, but we were staffing the same number of nurses every day. What do you think?

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