How the supply chain crisis is worsening the workforce crisis

In our recent conversations with executives, we’ve heard that the workforce crisis continues to be the most urgent issue confronting health systems.

It’s a many-sided problem: early retirements hitting the nursing staff, leading to an overall loss of experience; early and mid-career nurses choosing to work for temporary staffing agencies for much higher pay, resulting in increased labor costs and resentment among remaining nurses; and a rising vacancy rate made more challenging by difficulty competing for talent against others offering higher pay and less stressful work environments.

But one factor undermining frontline nurse engagement hadn’t occurred to us, until we heard a chief nursing officer describe it this week. The lingering supply chain crisis is forcing hospitals to change where they purchase basic items—think IV tubing and bags, surgery kits, some basic drugs—which in turn forces nurses to adapt to using unfamiliar supplies on the fly, making for a less predictable work environment. On a busy and staff-constrained nursing unit, even small changes to standard procedures can be incredibly frustrating for nurses, and even lead to patient safety issues. Just another way in which the current environment is creating unprecedented pressure on healthcare workers, with little prospect for improvement anytime soon.

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