It’s no secret that, since the pandemic, nurses have been leaving the profession in droves. However, a nurse shortage has been anticipated for a while, predating the pandemic; demographics made it inevitable.

“A decade ago, the average age of nurses in our hospital was 48 years old, so we knew we were going to have a mass retirement in about 10 years, and we needed to plan for that,” says Cindy Gaines, Lumeon’s Chief Clinical Transformation Officer (and a veteran nurse executive), in a recent Lumeon podcast. “We knew that nursing schools were not producing as many staff as they once had, so a shortage was coming.

“Then Covid hit, and a lot of nurses said, ‘I’m done. It’s just too stressful. I’m stepping out of the workforce earlier than I had planned. I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s too hard.’”

Which leaves those nurses remaining in a facility overworked and subject to burnout… and presents provider organizations with a critical staffing and operational challenge.

One solution, according to Gaines, is to apply automation to effect care transformation. And she believes now is the time because, given the staffing pressures every healthcare system is experiencing, people are open to it. The old way – putting more responsibility on nurses’ shoulders, since they’re so good at getting things done – simply is no longer an option.

Yes, “automation” is a very scary word to many people in healthcare. But Gaines notes that new approaches to automation, such as care orchestration, can make a significant (and proven) difference to care teams.

“We’ve had a lot of success implementing care orchestration in the periop environment, automating workflow related to intake of patients scheduled for surgery,” Gaines says. “Traditionally, that’s a very manual process; Lumeon’s solution frees up an incredible amount of time.

“Another example is transitions of care,” she adds. “Typically, when a patient goes home from the hospital, they get a call a few days later from a member of the care team: ‘Do you have an appointment? How are you doing?’ We’ve found this is very effective in reducing readmission, but it’s really hard to scale. I managed a team that did this, and we anticipated these transition of care calls would take an hour or two, but they actually took up about half of the day! So, when you can use automation to reach out to the patient and survey them, then just call the patients who need to assistance, every patient receives the follow up that is needed, but the teams spends the time on the phone with the patient who is in need.  Better for the patients and more efficient for the team! 

Gaines has implemented many software systems at hospitals throughout her career. Often those systems were for safety, so it was the right thing to do, but they didn’t make work easier for clinicians. 

“What we’re doing at Lumeon with care orchestration actually makes it easier for clinicians; we’re taking actions off of the clinician to do list to free them up to spend more time with patients in a meaningful way.”

To hear the entire conversation with Cindy Gaines, watch the podcast here, “How Automation Improves Patient Care and Reduces Nurse Burnout”.

Cindy Gaines, MSN, RN and Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Lumeon, has over 30 years of healthcare experience, Recognized by Health Data Management as one of the U.S.’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Health IT, and by Becker’s as a 2023 “Woman in Health IT to Know”. Cindy brings over 30 years of healthcare experience focused on quality, engagement, and clinical operations.