McKinsey Report: Workflow Changes Could Improve Nurse Work Conditions

June 1, 2023
A new report from McKinsey finds that changes to workflow could improve the work lives of nurses and enhance efficiencies

In much the same way that the pandemic brought contagion and confusion to the medical community, the current nursing shortage is proving itself a costly and lingering side-effect of COVID-19, bringing with it a price tag that the healthcare industry and patients are being forced to pay in one way or another. With this in mind, McKinsey recently collaborated with the ANA Enterprise, an affiliate of the American Nurses Association, to conduct new research to find out how nurses spent their working hours, and how they would change their duties and workflow if given the opportunity. The research findings suggested workflow- and technology-related options that could help healthcare systems better adapt to the shortage and provide necessary patient services.

As healthcare organizations attempt to address the nursing shortage with changes to workflows, many successes have proven limited, as decreases in health services and increases in staff burnout and labor costs continue as causes for concern. In a 2022 article, McKinsey detailed the lingering effects of COVID-19 on the nursing workforce, and recent estimates still suggest “a potential shortage of 200,000 to 450,000 nurses in the Unites States, with acute-care settings likely to be the most affected.” 

Over the past three years, McKinsey has reported about trends in the nursing workforce. As of March 2023, data showed that “45 percent of inpatient nurses—who make up about 2.0 million of the 4.2 million nurses in the U.S.—reported they are likely to leave their role in the next six months. Among those who reported an intent to leave, the top two reasons cited were not feeling valued by their organization and not having a manageable workload.” The data also pointed out “nurses have consistently reported increasing workload burden as a main factor behind their intent to leave.” 

In McKinsey’s recent survey from last month, nurses detailed how much time they actually spent on required duties (across 69 activities), and they also indicated how much time they would like to do the same activities. After reviewing the survey results, McKinsey found that with the implementation of a “redesigned care model, technology enablement, and improved delegation of tasks,” nurses could regain 15 percent of their time and improve their workload. McKinsey asserted that the total estimate of freed time for nurses could potentially help reduce the nursing shortage by almost half. 

Key findings of the May 2023 survey results include:

·      Nurses reported a desire to spend more time with their patients, coach fellow nurses, and participate in professional-growth activities;

·       Nurses desired to spend less time on documentation, hunting and gathering, and administrative and support tasks; and,

·       Nurse time saved through care-model changes and innovations can benefit patients and nurses, and contribute to building sustainable careers in healthcare. 

McKinsey asserted, “In our optimistic estimate, after reallocating time back to nurses, health systems could free up a 15 percent net time savings, which could translate to closing the nursing workforce gap by up to 300,000 inpatient nurses. Achieving this may require health systems to invest heavily in technology, change management, and workflow redesign.” The data was summed up with, “Although the idea of change may be daunting, incorporating innovations in healthcare delivery could be a strategy for building a sustainable workload that could attract and retain nursing talent by allowing them to do more of what matters to them most: taking care of patients and one another.        

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