O.R. Clinician Crunch Eases with Information Technology
Hospital administrators who think they have problems filling staff vacancies should consider the Ochsner Health System in
"Staffing since Katrina has been a challenge," says Judith Landry, unit director of surgery at the system's flagship, 473-bed
More than money
Though Ochsner has taken some steps to raise compensation for clinical staff, it still isn't able to compete for employees solely with money, Landry says. It has three secret weapons, though. First is a stable work environment. Second is a "family" atmosphere and a sense of home that lead to high employee satisfaction scores (in 2005 a local business journal named Ochsner as
Landry's department runs 22 O.R.s and a staff of 150, handling 50-60 procedures per day. The medical center is a transplant center for heart, lung, liver, kidney, and pancreas, and has more than 750 clinical research trials going on at any given time. Ochsner is a leader in robotic surgery, one of only six training centers in the world for procedures using the Da Vinci surgical robot.
"Our hospital is top-notch in the city, and people are interested in being around our technology," Landry says.
Since the late 1990s, the department has had a surgical information system from SIS,
"SIS makes it easy to document everything," says Landry. "It's a positive in bringing in new nurses and keeping them. Whenever we have nursing students do rotations through here, they're very impressed and like our technology within the department." It's one factor that influences where they ultimately decide to apply for jobs.
"SIS makes it easy to document everything. It's a positive in bringing in new nurses and keeping them. Whenever we have nursing students do rotations through here, they're very impressed and like our technology within the department." -Judith Landry, Ochsner Health System,
field overall, and surgical technicians aren't available in the kinds of numbers that can fill the gap. When staffing becomes a problem in the O.R., good IT can make a difference.
Attracting the technogeeks
"The people we're trying to tap into are the younger generation-the ones who are always texting and instant-messaging, and who are challenged and thrilled by technology," says JoAnn Adkins, administrator of the service line for surgical services at flagship Henry Ford Hospital, a 903-bed facility that boasts a number of high-tech services, including one of the leading robotic surgery programs in the United States.
"I happen to be a seasoned nurse," Adkins says. "I was around when we had to sharpen our own knife blades. But I believe the high-tech world is truly where you need to be, and you can't be afraid of it."
Henry Ford also uses a surgical information system from SIS. It's been installed for six years, though Adkins says her department is just now starting to take full advantage of its capabilities. "We're now computerizing documentation throughout the network so that we can readily recall information and start standardizing practice. That's critical, especially with high-tech equipment."
Henry Ford's O.R. staffing level is the highest it's been in four years, partly because of the buzz created by the high-tech environment. "We've been able to hire talented people," Adkins says. "A year ago, we didn't hire people into the O.R. without specific experience. Now we hire for talent and individual skill sets. And we hire those who are excited and willing to learn. We have towers of equipment that require individuals to understand how to get them to function at the same time. The computer is one of the entry level skills."
The ease of tracking and documentation represented by the SIS system is taken for granted by the younger generation, who can't imagine working without access to that data. "They're used to an environment where they're documenting at the same time they're doing other things," Adkins says. "The system really helps recruiting."
Sometimes a hospital is fortunate enough not to have an O.R. labor shortage, like Mansfield (OH) Hospital, part of the MedCentral Health Network. The 326-bed facility sits halfway between Cleveland and Columbus. It serves as a training site for several nursing schools and medical technician programs, including a surgical tech program that gives them what O.R. director Linda Nelson calls an "overabundance" of surgical technicians. "It's a ratio we'd like to keep," she says.
Although many future nurses and techs pass through the halls of
Many nurses come to the region as trailing spouses.
Surgical Information Systems offers a comprehensive, fully integrated perioperative and anesthesia information system that captures all clinical, administrative, and financial data on every patient event from surgical scheduling through transcription. The results are improved work flow and communications for increased patient safety, revenues, and operational efficiencies. www.SISFirst.com.