America is already feeling the impact of the impending nurse shortage. In March, the American Hospital Association reported that the total shortage of nurses would reach 1.1 million by the end of 2022 — and they are considering this a national emergency.
As healthcare institutions across the country scramble to hire more nurses, nurses themselves are looking for jobs that don’t take such a strong toll on their mental health. Patients — who are arguably the most affected by this development — are left to search for other ways to access healthcare.
Telehealth is one notable technology that serves as a viable solution to all these issues. Here are a few ways it can help the US power through its ongoing nurse shortage.
It helps nurses work more sustainably
Though a typical workday for a nurse lasts for 12 hours, these shifts were made even more taxing by the pandemic. This has significantly impacted their mental health. In These Times even describes it as a “moral injury” similar to that experienced by war veterans. Telehealth can help nurses who are looking to take a break from the bedside to recover. It allows them to work remotely, so they can still treat patients at home or even on the road. Telehealth also allows nurses control over their own schedules, meaning they can work at their own pace and avoid burnout.
It allows nurses to treat more patients
HealthTech Mag points out that the pandemic made healthcare workers and patients alike more comfortable with using telehealth. It helps eliminate commute and wait times, so telehealth can help nurses and nurse practitioners (NPs) see more patients in a day. Nurses can even cater to patients outside their respective states. For instance, Remote nurse practitioners in Connecticut can cater to patients in Arizona. NPs in Arizona can do the same if there’s a higher demand for NPs in Connecticut. Telehealth can thus counter the fact that there are now fewer nurses to cater to the same — or even an increasing — number of patients.
It helps NPs combat the physician shortage
The ongoing nurse shortage is taking place at the same time America is experiencing a doctor shortage. This development further impacts both the quality of healthcare patients receive and their access to such healthcare in the first place. In response, many states are allowing NPs to practice without a doctor’s supervision because they have the educational background needed to do so. Telehealth can remotely expand the reach of these independent NPs even further to places where doctors are needed the most. This way, patients can still receive quality primary care while the healthcare system trains replacements.
It promotes preventive healthcare
This is one of the foremost benefits of telehealth for good reason. Instead of flooding hospitals and overburdening nurses and other healthcare workers, low-risk patients can simply set virtual appointments at home. They can do so as frequently as they wish, which prevents them from developing conditions that merit a hospital visit. Telehealth thus helps nurses working at hospitals only see urgent cases, so they’re less likely to burn out from overwork. Massachusetts General Hospital found this hybrid model also guarantees patients quality healthcare when they need it most.
In the time it takes for the system to train and recruit more nurses, something must be done to cater to America’s healthcare needs. Telehealth is one technology that proved to be invaluable during the pandemic and can help us even more in the short- and long-term.
For more of the latest in tech, check out our technology category here on The HITC.