Staffing shortages are scary and can significantly impact the quality of patient care. Picture this: It’s a Monday, the busiest day of the workweek. The elevator rattles as you descend to the basement. As you slowly approach the dimly lit dietitians’ office, the hallway lights flicker ominously. The office door is slightly ajar. You peek in to find a horrifying scene. Several of the desks are empty; it’s the skeleton crew today. The patient reports are printed, and the papers glow with highlighted markings. The creepy conclusion to this tale is the negative impact on patient care. Read on… if you dare.
Picking and choosing patients
A grisly truth of staffing shortages is the picking and choosing of which patients must be assessed by the dietitian. This may sound like a haunted tale, but it’s true. When you have a long list of patients that are due for an assessment, the unfortunate reality is that some patients will have to wait or may never receive a dietitian visit. This situation forces dietitians to ask themselves an impossible question, “Who needs nutrition intervention the most?”
Noncompliance with policies
Policies exist for a reason. Think of them as the best practice rules for running the daily operations at your facility. Many facilities have policies surrounding how soon nutrition consults must be addressed, when follow-up assessments need to be completed, and more. If your clinical crew is stretched thin, forget policy compliance. “Best practice” doesn’t exist anymore. Your staff is now in survival mode.
Potentially serious mistakes
More patients to see equals less time with each patient. With a heavy patient load, dietitians must move faster. Assessments are less thorough, education sessions are rushed, and charting is skimpy. Speeding through the day raises the risk of mistakes and forgotten details. Everything from lab abnormalities to supplement orders to diet changes might be overlooked. Are you willing to take that risk?
Poor communication with team
Other clinicians will start to think the dietitians are just specters, spotting their shadows or feeling a whoosh of air as they fly by. Frankly, rounds, care plan meetings, and huddles take time that the busy dietitian just doesn’t have. Communication with the interdisciplinary team will suffer, and so will patient care.
Dietitians serve as representatives on many clinical committees. Unless attendance is mandatory, dietitians will likely ghost these meetings to make more time for direct patient care. Participation on important committees like wound care, clinical nutrition, patient satisfaction, quality improvement, and more will vanish.
No time for extra projects
With a frightfully long list of patients to assess, the short-staffed skeleton crew will start to bow out of extra projects. Think: quality improvement, meal tray audits, launching a new patient menu, speaking to the oncology support group, doing community events, and more. Dietitians have so much to offer, yet so little time.
The spookiest result of staffing shortages is burnout. Just like Charlie Brown receiving rocks in his trick or treat bag, the burden of staffing issues gets heavier and heavier to carry. Dietitians will bend until they break, and at that point, they quit. After that, your skeleton crew is even thinner.
Don’t wait and watch these spine-chilling results of staffing shortages wreak havoc on your team. Get help; submit your request for staffing support today.
Sara Glanz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC worked as a traveling dietitian for Dietitians On Demand for two years before joining the team as the corporate dietitian. In this role, she has championed the continuing education program to empower dietitians everywhere to achieve their professional goals.
Dietitians On Demand is a nationwide staffing and recruiting company for registered dietitians, specializing in short-term, temporary and permanent-hire positions in acute care, long term care and food service positions. We’re dedicated to dietitians and helping them enhance their practice and excel in the workplace. Check out our job openings, request your coverage, or visit our store today!