We are currently in the midst of a nursing shortage that was a long time coming—but no one could have anticipated it would be this bad. Even worse, every factor points to how the nursing shortage is only going to grow in the next decades.

We know that there’s an increasing aging population in the US. By 2030, 1 in 5 people will be retirement age. By the mid-2030s, more people will be over age 65 than under age 18. Seniors require the most nursing care. Let’s not forget that many of those seniors are retired nurses.

COVID-19 placed even more strain on the American healthcare system, and only served to exacerbate the shortage of healthcare providers—extending through every type of nurse as well, from nurse practitioners through travel nurses. Hospitals across the country have to quickly shuffle their personnel around to try to meet the public’s needs during the pandemic, while also maintaining sufficient operations to address other medical concerns in a timely manner.

Developments in the use of technology in the nursing practice have already helped empower the nursing profession to meet the mounting challenges they’ve been facing. There are four key ways in which technology has directly helped address the current nursing shortage, and keep clinical operations flowing.

Virtual Nursing Simulations & Mobile Training

While there was already increasing adoption of virtual nursing simulations as tools within nursing school curricula, state nursing boards accelerated this process when they augmented their guidelines in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The use of virtual nursing simulations in the classroom helps provide real-time feedback on interactive modules that have been shown to give learners more clinical confidence. Nursing students and professionals alike benefit from being able to incorporate these simulations independent of their location and by their own schedule.

This also means that learners can get exposure to clinical situations and populations beyond what’s immediately available to them in their geography or institution. In this way, virtual nursing simulations can help expand the breadth and scope of clinical scenarios and conditions that each nurse faces.

Using virtual nursing simulations to make high quality nursing education available to everyone, regardless of location and logistics, not only helps current nurses do a better job. Virtual nursing simulations can open up the nursing career to more people, making it accessible across demographics and lifestyle factors.

And with virtual nursing simulations, every nurse can graduate or level up their skills with full confidence that they’ve gained not only vital knowledge, but also hands-on clinical experience. Decision-making cannot be taught in a classroom; but through virtual nursing simulations, every learner can sharpen their skills—with no risk to themselves or to the patients they’re engaging with.

Familiarity with engaging with patients via device screens makes building clinical rapport that much easier, particularly given other pending developments in the nursing industry.

Telehealth Visits

The public is becoming more comfortable with telehealth appointments, to the point where they are starting to expect it to be an option at every doctor’s office. The American Hospital Association reports that 76% of hospitals connect patients with practitioners using video.

Plans are underway to expand Medicare coverage of telehealth, to address regulatory restrictions that impede wider adoption of telehealth initiatives, and to fund research that characterizes the costs and benefits of telehealth. Even the existing fee-for-service system of healthcare needs to be overhauled to accommodate the new era of clinical engagement.

Even government spending is following suit. In fact, the USDA recently announced an initiative to build more internet infrastructure in more rural areas of the country, while the FCC is expanding the number of projects in both of its telehealth programs: the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and the Connected Care Pilot Program.

Why does telehealth matter for the nursing shortage? Telehealth makes it easier for nurses to engage one-on-one with higher numbers of patients in less time, radically extending the reach of the current staff. Telehealth also makes it easier for patients to comply with their visits, which can help with treatment plan adherence and directly contribute to better clinical outcomes.

Mobile Staffing

Medical institutions are resorting to travel nurses and third-party staffing solutions as they try to patch personnel gaps. Once again, helping to make sure there are enough hands present to adequately tend to the needs of each patient is critical. By definition a nursing shortage means that it is difficult to find enough nurses to fill the staff; third-party solutions can help meet any acute nursing needs that may flare up.

Sometimes, this includes mobile staffing apps. These range from nursing recruitment matchmaker apps to help identify strong nurse candidates or find temporary staffing solutions, through apps that help each nurse manage their shift schedule and maintain coverage. Being able to do this in real-time through a convenient mobile app gives nurses the type of flexibility that can prevent burnout and increase retention—which is more valuable than ever during a nursing shortage.

The synergistic relationship between these various solutions cannot be emphasized enough. For example, if you want to make sure all of your staff—from long-time FT nurses through short-term teavel nurses—are trained up to deal with difficult clinical situations in the same way and according to nursing best practices.

AI Tools

There is a lot of repetition in the daily life of a nurse, from the types of questions asked of patients through the recommendations doled out. Many nurses say that, in their division or subspecialty, they see a lot of the same types of cases day-to-day. Anything that can be done to reduce repetition can help reduce inefficiency—again, the key here is freeing up more of existing staff’s time so they can get more done with their limited hours and hands.

What if much of nurse engagement could be automated? Using artificial intelligence (AI), a lot of this actually can be smoothly automated. Most commonly, this is visible in texting and chatbots that engage with patients to ask questions and collect more information about their condition. This goes hand-in-hand with telehealth visits; a lot of basic patient interview questions can be automated, freeing up nurses and other healthcare professionals to address individual concerns and patient-specific circumstances.

Technology is entering the nursing profession at every level, from the virtual nursing simulations used in education through the information collected alongside services rendered to patients. By helping nurses learn more effectively, develop clinical confidence, and get their jobs done more efficiently, we can increase the reach of the nurse hands we already have—and be that much more empowered to persevere through the biggest nursing shortage we’ve ever faced.

See how virtual nursing simulations could elevate the confidence and clinical judgment of your nurses or students. Book a demo today!