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This week we wrap up our conversation with Bonnie Barnes, FAAN, Co-Founder, CEO and Board President at The DAISY Foundation, in Part III of our blog series, Back to Basics: Driving Fulfillment for Frontline Caregivers. It’s a fitting tribute to Nurses Week. In this blog we discuss:

  • Concerns over second and third order impacts related to COVID
  • Positive trends that shaping as a result of the pandemic
  • Recognition of nurses and nurse leaders as an investment

Bonnie, I’d like to explore some of the second and third order impacts you’re seeing and are concerned with because of the pandemic?

I’m very concerned, I’m sure we all are about the number of nurse executives, the real wisdom and maturity and experience of the healthcare profession, who are taking this time to retire, or move out of health care facilities and take their wonderful skill someplace else.

I think the “brain drain” is a serious concern. I’ve had a number of nurse leaders say to me, “I’ve stood by over the last year feeling very helpless. Feeling that I can’t do enough for my team. I can’t do enough for these nurses who are making such astounding, extraordinary sacrifices for everyone. I feel helpless.”

They don’t want to feel helpless. So, one avenue that some of them are taking is to say, it’s time for me to move on. I’m very concerned about that.

On the other hand, I’m also very encouraged. We’re hearing that applications for nursing school are doing well. I think the visibility of what this career can really mean, and the incredible breadth of opportunity has encouraged people to think they may want to be a nurse.

I’ve asked a number of the deans of nursing that we work with, “Are people running to the profession or are they running away?” We’re hearing a lot of running to nursing. I think it is very encouraging.

Going forward, I believe that part of the challenge is going to be ensuring that these wonderful fresh, dedicated nurses and nursing students are nurtured through the early years of their careers. We don’t want to lose them at a time when they’re most vulnerable. We must give them the tools and support they need so that they grow and be fulfilled. We need them to succeed and achieve that level of wisdom we see in our nurses and nurse leaders at retirement age. 

I think your point is about leadership. Our frontline leaders are the critical component in creating an environment where nurses and all frontline workers feel engaged and fulfilled. They’re the heart and soul of our healthcare systems. It’s imperative that we make their jobs easier, and free up time spent on a lot of “administrivia.” The day-to-day administrative tasks we ask them to perform don’t allow them to focus on the patient or their teams. In some ways, the pandemic has become a forcing factor.

I’m curious on your thoughts if you had to look two years from now. What do you see as some of the positives?

I think it’s the recognition and appreciation that nurses and health care providers are not robots. They do not possess a bottomless pit of empathy and compassion. The increased focus on nurse and nurse leader’s well-being is what I think will get us through. The recognition that they need to be cared for as human beings just as they are caring for their patients and families as human beings.

I’m thrilled to see so many organizations creating programs for nurse’s well-being. And that we are working to ensure the environment in which they work is healthy and positive. DAISY has been playing a role in this for more than 20 years. But now it has become a seriously structured effort at improving the well-being of the staff, and the managers who lead them. I think that is where we’re going to see the greatest outcomes.

I couldn’t agree with you more. I believe we’re going to see an increased focus on frontline leaders as a key lever within a health system. And, because of their importance, new strategies, and technologies to support them will be prioritized.

I think a good example of this comes from a large health system with more than 53,000 employees. During this pandemic HR took over the responsibility for all hiring and interviewing.

They recognized the nurse leadership teams did not have time. Not an easy move for clinical leaders. At the end of the day HR got smarter and were able to fill roles in a matter of days instead of months. There was an enormous amount of trust that was built between the clinical team and HR. More importantly, a huge burden was removed from their shoulders during a time when they were clearly being pushed to the limit.

That’s just one example of many that we are seeing in some of these administrative shifts. I believe this is leading to a very positive future.

What you’re describing, CJ, is a very impressive example. It’s about seeing nurses as an investment, not an expense. The financial powers within our health systems must recognize that healthcare organizations are only as successful as the quality and safety of the patient care they provide. When we invest in the quality and safety of our healthcare staff and how they’re cared for as opposed to treating them as a line-item expense, things will be very different. I think we’re seeing that now.

Read the full blog series Back to Basics: Driving Fulfillment for Frontline Caregivers with Bonnie Barnes –  Part I and Part II