AI Can Alleviate Staffing Issues During COVID-19 

As many hospitals are pushed to the brink with COVID-19 cases, they are experiencing record staffing shortages to care for them. According to a recent article in The New York Times, we’ve seen a surge in ventilator production thanks to unlikely partnerships between ventilator producers and the big automakers like Ford and General Motors. However, we’ve reached an apex in this country where we now have more than enough ventilators, but not enough qualified specialists to operate them. 

“Ventilators are important in critical care but they don’t save people’s lives,” said Dr. Branson of the University of Cincinnati. “They just keep people alive while the people caring for them can figure out what’s wrong and fix the problem. And at the moment, we just don’t have enough of those people.”  

According to STAT News Covid-19 Tracker, COVID cases in the U.S. have spiked 127% in the past month. With this dramatic increase in patients, there simply aren’t enough frontline workers to handle the surge. Many healthcare workers are being called out of retirement to lend a hand and many nursing colleges are fast-tracking nursing transcripts to get students into the workforce quicker. 

NNU Survey Reveals Shortcomings

National Nurses United has sounded the alarm on the inadequacies in staffing and other precautionary measures in preparation for a COVID-19 surge during the flu season. In its new nationwide survey of more than 15,000 registered nurses, NNU reveals that “11 months into the pandemic, hospitals are failing to prepare for a surge of Covid-19 cases during flu season and that basic infection control and prevention measures are still lacking.”

Key take-aways include: 

  • Short staffing is increasingly an even bigger problem in hospitals, with 30 percent of nurses reporting that it is their number one safety concern. Nearly half of hospital nurses (42 percent) report that staffing has gotten slightly or much worse recently. In addition, 20 percent of nurses report being reassigned to units where new skills or competencies are required, without adequate training.
  • Employers are forcing nurses to go to work sick, rather than stay home. Paid sick leave is an important and proven measure to protect the health of nurses, other health care workers, and their patients. But only 36 percent of hospital RNs reported always being able to stay home when they have influenza or Covid-like symptoms.
  • Covid-19 is having a deep impact on the mental health of nurses, with more than 70 percent of nurses in hospitals reporting that they are afraid of getting Covid-19 and 80 percent fearing that they will infect a family member.
    • Half of hospital nurses report they have more difficulty sleeping than before the pandemic.
    • Nearly 80 percent of hospital RNs report feeling more stressed than before the pandemic.
    • Nearly three-quarters of nurses report feeling more anxious.
    • 62 percent report feeling more sad or depressed.
  • About 20 percent of nurses report facing increased workplace violence on the job, which they attribute to decreasing staffing levels, changes in the patient population, and visitor restrictions.

RPM to the Rescue

To alleviate staffing issues, many hospitals are implementing AI technologies with remote patient monitoring (RPM), like VSTOne, so nurses can manage more patients with less resources. VSTOne continuously monitors COVID-19 patient vitals, reducing rounding and minimizing potential infection. When a resident’s vitals change, staff are alerted, and appropriate response protocols go into effect. 

To learn how VSTOne can augment your staff and minimize exposure to COVID-19 and see a demo, click here