Although the relationship between nursing care and safe, high-quality patient care is widely understood today, it is often difficult for health care leaders to agree on a systematic method for allocating nursing resources, according to a new report published by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). The report offers insight into the different perspectives that finance and nursing professionals bring to nurse staffing issues along with guidance for bridging the gap between the two groups.
Two leading nursing organizations — the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) — coauthored the report with HFMA. The report also was endorsed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.
With 2020 declared the Year of the Nurse, this 19-page report is especially timely and critical in advancing an important nursing priority. It explores the different sources of stress that nursing and finance leaders routinely encounter in the course of their work. Enhancing mutual understanding of their respective professional roles and challenges can make it easier for the two groups to work together toward shared goals, according to the authors. The report, “The Business of Caring: Promoting Optimal Allocation of Nursing Resources,” also calls on health care leaders to pioneer creative nurse staffing approaches, assess the impacts of new technology on all phases of care, strive for fierce collaboration and agree on principles for allocating appropriate nursing resources for patient care. These principles include the following: (1) nurse staffing makes a critical difference for patients and for the care experience; (2) safe nurse staffing leads to better patient outcomes; and (3) optimal staffing reduces nurse turnover, which in turn reduces the cost of care.
“Finance and nursing leaders today realize that cutting nurse staff can work against efforts to improve quality of care and reduce costs,” said HFMA President and CEO Joseph J. Fifer, FHFMA, CPA. “By building on that shared understanding, I am confident that together we will make great strides in improving allocation of nursing resources.”
The authors emphasize that the patient experience should always be front and center amid efforts to improve collaboration between nursing and finance professionals.
“Nurses have a direct impact on quality of care and patient and family satisfaction. It is time to shift the nurse staffing paradigm so that the contributions of nurses to positive patient outcomes are understood, valued and viewed as a priority investment rather than a discretionary expense,” said ANA President Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN.
The report contrasts the confrontational conversations about nurse staffing budgets that nursing and finance leaders typically had in the 1980s with the more collaborative conversations that characterize contemporary working relationships between the two groups. “Providing safe and affordable health care is a top priority,” said AONL CEO Robyn Begley, DNP, RN, NEA-BC. “Health care leaders across the country are transforming health care delivery to improve outcomes, enhance the patient experience, lower the cost of care and foster a healthy work environment for all clinicians.”
A collaborative approach to nursing resource allocation will have benefits beyond improving staffing allocations, the authors write. Collaboration will help hospitals and health systems prioritize quality of care, consider organizational resource allocation holistically, yield more reliable data for decision-making, and prevent and resolve conflict, the authors conclude. These changes will benefit health systems, the people who work there and, most importantly, the patients they serve.
The report is available on the HFMA website.