How more nurses can operate at the top of their licenses

Zack Worsham
Zack Worsham
Doctors and nurses walking through corridor in hospital

Conventional wisdom: the right person performing the right job at the right time makes all the difference. However, in a busy clinical environment, this ideal can be an immense challenge. When nurses are short-staffed, regularly working overtime, and weighed down with a slew of menial, non-medical tasks, “operating at the top of your license” can frequently feel out of reach.

But what precisely does it mean to “operate at the top of your license?” In an article from Physician’s Practice®, Auren Weinberg, MD, writes: “Staff members need to be challenged to work on the most complex, challenging tasks that their knowledge and abilities allow. As a result, productivity increases, staff satisfaction increases, and providers have more time to spend with patients.”

It’s surprising to think that even for the most trusted groups of professionals in the country, there is a disconnect empowering them to exercise their best skills and abilities. But when nurses are spending significant amounts of time performing the tasks of a secretary, it’s easy to understand the problem. On the whole, enabling nurses to “operate at the top of their licenses” is a complex challenge. The mere need for the phrase indicates the difficulty of doing so, and there is a variety of tasks and responsibilities that can relegate a nurse to below-license performance. Depending on how you approach it, booking patient transportation can be one such responsibility.

Consider the fact that the average shift for a nurse in a hospital setting lasts 12 hours. When the team is short-staffed, a shift can reach a maximum of 16 hours. As the person who spends the most time attending patients at the bedside, nurses catch the most critical developments in the health of their patients. As such, nurses should focus on patient care. When they don’t even have 15 minutes to stop for lunch, expecting nurses to spend hours coordinating rides for their patients is insulting to their value and detrimental to patient health.

Today, consumers have more options than ever before, and user expectations have changed. Nurses are no different—their heads are buried in EHR/EMRs for hours every day, and they want to complete their responsibilities simply and efficiently. It’s 2020: forcing hospital staff to make phone calls and send faxes to book transportation doesn’t favor a friendly user experience—it’s outdated, frustrating, inefficient.

“When I was working with the cab company, you would call initially then call back again and get availability and then add demographics for the patient, then ask for the ride to be approved internally. Then you had to check on the ride. A lot of time on the phone, on hold.”

– Ivone Melendez, Care Manager at Bon Secours Health System

Read more about Ivone’s story using Roundtrip.

The connection between nurses’ job satisfaction and patient health outcomes has been the subject of a lot of speculation, but now we have the data to prove it. Researchers recently observed a 25% increase in nurse job enjoyment over a two-year span that was linked with an overall quality of care increase between 5 and 20%. According to the same study, an improvement in nurses’ job satisfaction led to an 87% decrease in the infection rate in 2 years, a 59% decrease in the hospital-acquired ulcer rate in 2 years, and a 17% decrease in injury fall rate in 4 years.

When hospitals and health systems empower their care teams to “operate at the top of their licenses,” it leads to better results in job satisfaction for nurses. When nurses are more satisfied in their jobs, it leads to better outcomes for patients and better HCAPS ratings for the hospital. Freeing nurses from the litany of coordinating transportation over the phone, or through the fax machine, is a way that you can empower nurses to do what they do best: the invaluable care they provide to patients.