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Balancing Nursing Reliability and Service Effectiveness: A Guide for Health Care Providers

  • Date: Mar 13, 2023
  • Author: Alastair Tulloch

Staff sickness and absence, especially during peak periods, can have a major effect on your ability as a healthcare provider to care for patients effectively. In the long term, a culture of absenteeism can cause reliable team members to burn out throwing your staff retention into turmoil. That’s why it’s important as a healthcare employer to have strategies in place for managing absence in the workplace, encouraging dependability and reliability in your staff, and keeping your staffing options flexible when staff absence cannot be avoided. 

What are the effects of long- and short-term staff absences on wider teams 

Both short- and long-term staff absences can impact the effectiveness of the workplace as a whole, have repercussions on business outcomes and have huge consequences for the wellbeing and success of the wider team. The four most common problems caused by staff absence are: 

  • Reduced productivity 

When an individual is absent their own productivity drops significantly. If they aren’t present, they can’t do the work assigned to them. But the wider team’s productivity is affected as well. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employees are nearly 30% less productive when they are covering for a colleague and by taking on more work, they will have less time to dedicate to their own duties.  

  •  Poor morale and increased turnover 

These heavier workloads will then begin to affect staff morale and can lead to greater levels of burnout. In just one month in 2022, a total of 128,161 working days were lost due to nursing staff absence for anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illnesses. You may start to see a cycle where one absent staff member can cause other members of the team to suffer from stress-related absence as well.  
If staff continue to experience high workloads, poor morale and feel that their concerns regarding staff absences are not being listened to, they may choose to move on.  

  •  Increased staffing costs  

Staffing instability will greatly affect your overall budget. If absences are higher than expected your staffing budget may not be able to cope with the increased costs. Employing temporary cover staff can be costly and time consuming. In the event of long-term leaves of absence, you may also have to find and train permanent replacements as well as covering sick pay and other associated costs.  

  •  Declining patient care 

As your team struggle to compensate for absent staff, patient outcomes will begin to suffer. Declining standards of care will lead to reduced health outcomes and patient satisfaction which could lead to complaints or regulatory sanctions.  

When it comes to reducing the impact of staff absences in healthcare and improving staff reliability there are some important steps you can take.  

4 ways you can improve staff reliability and reduce the effects of absenteeism 

Establishing some key processes and building a culture of openness that emphasises the value of staff wellbeing will go a long way toward reducing absenteeism and helping your teams cope.  

1. Encourage a positive attendance culture

When dealing with absenteeism much of our efforts as employers are focused on covering duties and working to get staff back into work. As well as this reactive approach we should be taking more proactive steps to build a culture of positive attendance. Rewarding reliability can help foster this culture. Offer praise and thanks to reliable staff, build attendance into promotion criteria and develop a transparent reward system to recognise top performers.

2. Employ robust absence management procedures 

Procedures for managing absence should involve HR, line managers & occupational health support. Early interventions can help identify and remove the underlying causes of short-term absence helping you get nursing staff back to work quickly.  

For long-term absence, it’s important to keep in contact with employees sensitively, provide reasonable adjustments and work with them to develop realistic return-to-work plans. 

3. Promote mental health and wellbeing 

Avoid burnout in staff and reduce the effects of stress and anxiety by taking measures to promote wellbeing. Nursing can be a high-pressure environment and many nurses suffer from stress and anxiety. But employers can help by:

  • Encouraging staff to make use of their breaks and holiday allowance 

  • Provide training around time management and delegation skills 

  • Using appraisals and one to ones to gather feedback and concerns  

  • Providing resources and support around topics such as healthy eating, wellbeing, money management and exercise 

  • Asking your teams what they need to support their mental health and wellness

4. Partner with a specialist staffing agency

Being able to rapidly deploy staff to cover unexpected absences is critical in mitigating the loss of productivity and maintaining high standards of patient care. By partnering with a specialist agency, you can find temporary cover quickly helping you be more agile when responding to staffing problems. 

Access temporary and permanent nursing staff quickly and easily with Vetro 

Whether you are looking for temporary nursing support or searching for exceptional permanent nursing staff we can help. We support NHS hospitals, secure forensic services, nursing homes, CAMHS, and rehabilitation services, helping them find the nurses they need. At Vetro we put safeguarding at the heart of our nursing recruitment service so you can be sure the nurses we work with are fully compliant. 

If you are having trouble with staff absences or need help in attracting skilled nursing professionals in your region we can help. 

Find out more about Vetro Nursing or contact a consultant to discuss your hiring needs. 

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