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New WorkJam app aims at preventing nurse burnout

Burned out nurses don't make for healthy hospitals and medical practices. A targeted effort from the makers of the WorkJam app hopes to solve that problem.

At a time when nurse burnout is reaching epic proportions, digital workplace application maker WorkJam is hoping to make a difference.

Though the tool is used by hourly and shift workers in a wide variety of industries, WorkJam recently hired a former nurse manager to be its healthcare industry principal and to help the company work toward preventing nurse burnout, said Will Eadie, global vice president of sales and strategy at WorkJam.

"Anything that's shift-driven work requires a lot of communication with complex schedule changes and the knowledge to do the jobs," he said. "The stakes are raised in healthcare because we're talking about saving people's lives."

Surveys show high levels of burnout

That's why there's a need for preventing nurse burnout, as well as strategies to deal with staff shortages and challenges with hiring. Separate surveys done by Kronos and CareerBuilder in May of 2017 showed similarly high levels of burnout: Sixty-three percent of nurses surveyed by Kronos reported it, while the CareerBuilder survey had the number at 70%. The CareerBuilder survey also pointed to the difficulty in hiring nurses, noting the same jobs were posted as many as 10 times before being filled. A 2010 study by the National Institutes of Health takes the idea of preventing nurse burnout further tying it specifically to patient dissatisfaction. The "Nurse burnout and patient satisfaction" study points to improved communications and adequate staffing as two areas that could help reduce the risk of nurse burnout and patient dissatisfaction.

But it's often not that straightforward. The healthcare field in general is challenging because it has so many moving parts, said John Sumser, principal analyst at HRExaminer. "Healthcare has an engagement problem, but that has partly to do with the status of systems inside of healthcare," he said. "It's a system based on rank, and it's not like other work environments because doctors aren't going to use the same systems nurses or interns do. Technology really can't change the social structure."

Anything that's shift-driven work requires a lot of communication with complex schedule changes and the knowledge to do the jobs.
Will Eadieglobal vice president of sales and strategy, WorkJam

So the WorkJam team went directly to nurses to find out what might achieve nurse burnout prevention, Eadie said. The top of the list was a big part of workforce management: control of the work schedule. Instead of requesting a day off in a log book or chatting about shifts with a manager, nurses can log in to the WorkJam app and change, accept or swap shifts. "They can do this in real time, and there's no chance of miscommunication," Eadie said.

Communication, in general, is another hot button area for nurses, Eadie added. As is true for many hourly or shift workers, most nurses don't have "work" email accounts and in some cases have been forced to create Facebook or WhatsApp groups in order to share vital communications. WorkJam offers push notifications in real time to only the staff who need them, Eadie said, eliminating the need for social media and its potential privacy concerns. "Sometimes something as simple as a message to 'park in the back lot and come in the side door' can go a long way to making nurses feel like they're an important part of the team," he said, and that's key to preventing nurse burnout.

WorkJam integrates with HR systems

The WorkJam app starts by integrating with the existing HR systems for scheduling and incorporates the master employee list. Employees are offered the option to download the app to an Apple or Android phone, access it on the web or log in to hospital-provided kiosks.

Although the heart of the application is scheduling and communication, Eadie said some hospitals have gone further in the quest for preventing nurse burnout. "Because it can integrate with the scheduling system, it can tell an employee 'Congratulations, you've been on time 20 days in a row so you get the On Time Hero badge,'" he said. Employee engagement and gamification are natural extensions, he added, but so is the addition of education and training. If a hospital needs to do a quick review with nurses about, for example, glove use before flu season, the app can be locked until that training is completed, he said. Making those important communications easier to digest helps with preventing nurse burnout, and could ultimately lead to online training mini-courses that staff could do on their own time and get paid for, Eadie said.

Ultimately, Eadie thinks WorkJam can be used in large hospitals to allow staff to pick up shifts in areas they might not normally work in, but are qualified to do so. "This can be used to facilitate moonlighting, or the 'Uber-ization' or crowdsourcing of work. Hospitals are already paying for staff. This will make it possible for everyone to be more flexible."

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