5 Tips for Dealing with Nursing Staff Shortages

Nov 08, 2021

5 Tips for Dealing with Nursing Staff Shortages

As Nursing Managers in the UK are well aware, it’s tough working in an understaffed environment! A shortfall in staff impacts your ability to manage workloads, increases stress and can negatively affect the quality of care you and your team are able to give.

With staff shortages in nursing nothing new, it’s a good idea to consider ways you can work with the system. The following tips for dealing with nursing staff shortages will help you tackle the challenges you’re facing and make the best of any less-than-ideal situations.

1. Develop a Culture of Open Communication and Recognition

Working in a fast-paced and understaffed environment takes its toll. But there are a host of things you can do to ensure the time your staff spend at work is more positive (if not completely stress-free!).

One way is to foster a culture of open communication. And it can start with you – staff should know your door (or nursing station) is always open, and that you have their backs. They should feel free to express their frustrations and desires without fear of getting in trouble. Provide ample opportunities for them to offer suggestions for improvement too, and if you can, implement a few.

Consider how you communicate, particularly when your stress levels are peaking. Are you short-tempered or abrupt? Can you work on ways to communicate calmly, even when you’re stressing out?

Find ways to foster staff bonds, as a small strong team is better than a large one at odds with each other. It might be through senior nurses mentoring the juniors, or some fun team building activities (a game of mystery diagnosis anyone?).

Finally, harness the power of recognition. Perhaps you can aim to thank staff for one great thing they do each shift or each week (there are no hard limits here!). You could also incorporate public thanks at team meetings, via email or on the message board. Your words carry a lot of weight and the recognition you give could be that vital boost your staff need to get through their next shift.

Other recognition ideas include movie or dinner vouchers, gift cards, or starting a formal reward program, such as a monthly Nursing Excellence award. Talk to a specialist nursing recruiter to discuss what other healthcare organisations are doing if you’re stuck for ideas!

2. Find Opportunities to Inject Positivity

Aim to become the Princess or Prince of Pep-talk! Regularly remind your team of their strengths and capabilities, as well as their ability to not just survive but thrive in challenging times. Shifting those negative vibes to positive ones will boost morale, and might just result in a natural uptick in productivity – a great little bonus for you and the team.

3. Perform a Tech and Process Audit

Depending on your level of tech-savviness, you might need a bit of assistance from the IT gals or guys for this tip. It focuses on reviewing your computer processes to see if there are ways to enhance them and speed processes things up.

At a country-wide level, the government are trying to do just this with a £40 million injection into addressing slow login times, a big frustration for NHS staff. The pilot project at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital involved implementing a ‘single sign-on’ technology to cut time spent logging into multiple computers – it went from 1 minute 45 seconds to a mere 10 seconds. With almost 5000 logins each day, it saved staff over 130 hours; time they could put back into patient care.

While it’s not likely you have a spare £40 million lying around to address your tech issues (and if you do, please share!), there may be small things you can do to free up staff time, whether that’s improving your filing system or changing the way the equipment is set up. Have a cuppa and a chat with your techies to see what assistance they can provide.

Similarly, it’s also worthwhile considering what processes you could tweak in your nursing unit to increase efficiency. One example of this is ensuring patient rooms are stocked with critical supplies and equipment, so nurses don’t need to keep running back and forth to the supply cupboard. When every minute counts on a nursing shift, even small changes can make a big difference!

4. Refresh During Your Shift

Nurses (and Nursing Managers) are notorious for skipping shift breaks. But you and your staff deserve them. You work hard in a high-pressure environment – it’s in your best interests to take 15 minutes for a cuppa and a biscuit to decompress and refresh for your next task. Keep an eye out for staff who don’t take breaks, and encourage them to do so, although we know that’s sometimes easier said than done.

5. Draw on External Support

Despite employing these tips, there might come a time where coping with nursing shortages becomes that little bit too much. Bringing on extra people is, of course, the ideal solution, but finding local nursing talent is tough in this competitive market. Recruiting international nurses is a great option for addressing staffing shortages, allowing you to cast a wider net and tap into quality pools of talent overseas. However, if you haven’t worked in this space before, the process of hiring, sponsorship, registrations and completing all the necessary paperwork can be daunting.

This is when using a specialist nursing recruitment agency (like us!) is a great decision! As an industry leader with over 15 years of experience bringing nurses from all over the world into UK healthcare organisations, we can make the process easy and stress-free. Our extensive network of qualified international nurses means we can quickly help you boost your team, so you can get on with doing what you do best – looking after your staff and patients.

To learn more about how we can help you address your nurse shortage, feel free to reach out to us today.