Over the past few months, HMA has interviewed several hospital leaders in Asia on one universal challenge in healthcare today: The acute shortage of nurses.
From our conversations with St Luke’s International Hospital Tokyo’s chief nurse, Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur and Gleneagles Hospital Hong Kong’s CEOs, we’ve learnt that the lack of nurses is not limited to any one country, that it’s been an emerging problem since before the pandemic, and that it’s not realistic to expect any surge in nursing manpower anytime soon.
Demand for care is expected to continue rising, alongside a growing middle-class, urbanisation, and not to mention an ageing global population. In 2019, more than one billion of the world’s population was above the age of 60. This is expected to increase to 1.4 billion by 2030 and 2.1 billion by 2050.
While demand for nursing care increases, the pool of nurses has shrunk. More nurses are reaching retirement age, and a significant number are leaving due to work stress and burnout. In the US alone, it is estimated that some 100,000 nurses has left the industry due to the pandemic, citing work stress and fatigue.
Particularly for Asia, our nurses are in high demand from Western countries such as US and UK, which are offering streamlined visa and immigration processes with attractive pay and benefits. This has further depleted the nursing pool in the region.
Nursing retention strategies and best practices
Nonetheless, it is not all doom and gloom. Many hospitals have reviewed their nursing recruitment and retention strategies to ensure they remain attractive employers.
At HMA 2023 conference, several top hospitals will share their best practices and ideas in tackling nursing shortage.
Dr Seow Vei Ken, Chief Executive Officer of Malaysia’s Sunway Medical Centre will be sharing the hospital’s talent retention policies.
The Selangor-based hospital offers quaternary services with over 700 licensed beds, and has embarked on expansion plans adding a new 300-bed facility for women, babies and children.
Dr Seow will describe the hospital’s initiatives to address the physical and emotional needs of talent (whether nurses, doctors or other staff). This is particularly crucial in the wake of rising burnout and work-related stress reported by clinicians across the industry.
He will also share how he and his team works to provide clear career pathways and recognition for staff; as well as enable nurses and doctors to gain exposure in other hospitals and organisations for career growth and development.
Rise of healthtech and its impact on nursing
Following that, Dr Karen Koh, Deputy Director, Nursing at Singapore’s National University Hospital (NUH) will share her hospital’s experience with leveraging technology in nursing.
As one of the three public healthcare clusters in Singapore, National University Health Systems consists of tertiary, acute and community hospitals (including NUH and Alexandra Hospital) as well as specialty centres and polyclinics.
Dr Koh will speak on oneEMR, the group-wide electronic medical record system, and how it helps prioritise critical nursing activities and patient care.
She will further discuss the role of technologies to deliver accountable care, empower patients, as well as boost patient safety. These technologies include smart pumps and closed-loop medication and blood administration.
Public health agencies as part of the effort
Another key group of stakeholders in tackling the nursing shortage issue is the regulatory bodies.
Some countries have mandated nurse-bed ratios, stipulating a minimum number of nurses required before wards can be operated, with the aim of ensuring sufficient attention and care for each patient. For example, in Germany, a minimum staffing standard is applied according to severity of illness and work shifts – including a 1:10 nurse-to-patient ratio for day shifts and 1:20 for night shifts for trauma wards.
However, amidst growing efforts to automate or re-delegate certain nursing tasks, would it be timely for regulators to relook such regulations? Could the minimum number of nurses required to manage each patient be safely reduced?
A regulatory panel, comprising representatives from Department of Health Philippines, Ministry of Health Malaysia and Ministry of Health Indonesia, will discuss the feasibility and considerations in reviewing such regulations. Hospital Management Asia