Many healthcare facilities work with stretched budgets and antiquated staffing processes. However, acuity systems (computer-based patient classification systems) can improve staffing decisions to benefit patients, nurses and budgets.
Gayle Luker, interim operations manager for nursing resources and Clairvia administrator at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Nancy T. Blake, adjunct assistant professor at University of California Los Angeles School of Nursing, presented the session, “Nurse Staffing and Technology: A Beneficial Relationship Formed in the Electronic Environment,” twice on Monday and discussed methods to implement an acuity system and the importance of data-driven staffing that can balance patient care loads.
“Appropriate staffing is a goal for creating a healthy work environment, and being able to make those data-driven decisions on staffing, based on acuity, achieves that,” Luker says. “Acuity is what the patients’ status is on the health continuum, and the computer-based patient classification system calculates a patient’s acuity level so charge nurses or the leadership team can make staffing decisions that are objective and valid.”
Blake adds, “The system pulls data from the charts and medical records to develop a nursing outcome classification level for a patient. This sets the staffing requirements based on the patient’s medical and psychosocial needs.”
Acuity staffing is based on the care needs of patients; if a patient has a high acuity level that requires more care, then the nurse assigned to that patient may only have to care for that one patient during his or her shift because of the calculated demand hours, thus avoiding burnout.
“The charge nurse can identify a patient with a special care need and the acuity system identifies the nurses with that skill set, like ECMO for example, and matches them appropriately,” Blake says.
“A key point in implementing an acuity system is to get the finance, HR and IT departments on board at the very beginning, along with nursing staff, because they are all integral teams that will benefit from the system,” Luker says. “Using the system is straightforward, and it provides real-time data on the unit, and it provides reports — like budgets — daily.”
The speakers suggested that attendees discuss with leadership teams the need for data-driven systems to produce positive results, not only for cost containment, but for the well-being of nurses and patients.