Appropriate Staffing: It Matters

Over the past 18 months, AACN members across the country were asked to name the barriers that most impact their ability to deliver exceptional care. AACN President Clareen Wiencek says there is a clear answer: inappropriate staffing practices.

“We all know that appropriate staffing matters,” Wiencek said during Tuesday’s “AACN Member Roundtable: A Dialogue on Staffing.”

“It matters to the safety of our patients and their families. It matters to our own well-being, and it matters to the healthcare team with whom we work.”

Wiencek said the AACN board has prioritized addressing appropriate staffing as a key issue and continues to work toward developing solutions.

“We boldly stated that staffing — as one of the six Standards for Establishing and Sustaining Healthy Work Environments — must ensure the effective match between patient needs and nurse competencies, and we stand by the standard today now more than ever,” Wiencek said. “And we stand by the standards today now more than ever.”

According to AACN President-elect Christine Schulman, staffing is an important and complicated issue that impacts all nurses in one way or another. Schulman said some workplaces have success in addressing the issue, but more often than not, there are challenges.

She said pockets of success in addressing appropriate staffing are encouraging, but they are not enough to make a much-needed lasting change across the healthcare system.

“All of us are caught every day in this battle between being financially solvent and making sure that patient care is optimized and they are getting the highest-quality care they can,” Schulman said. “It seems like those two ends of the spectrum are constantly battling each other in the everyday work experience.”

Nurses were asked to participate in a live audience poll that recorded their answers to questions about staffing policy and displayed the results in real-time on a large screen. Afterward, they broke up into roundtable discussions to explore two staffing practices that put patients most at risk and two staffing practices that most ensure patient safety and should be consistently implemented.

“We know we have a lot of work left,” Wiencek said. “But this is a marathon — not a sprint.”