Innovative workload tool helps improve patient care and prevent nurse burnout at local hospital

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HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) —An innovative tool is working to improve staffing and patient care at a local hospital.

Nurses at Sentara realized that on some days, their workloads were uneven. For example, one day a nurse could have multiple patients with bigger needs while other nurses didn’t have any.

Now thanks to the Patient Acuity Nursing Tool, or PANT, they can help combat burnout and still take care of patients at the same time.

This new tool takes a calculated approach to improving patient care and makes sure patients with greater needs are spread out more evenly among staff members.

“You can tell from a nurses standpoint, if you had a really heavy shift versus the next day, you might not have such a heavy workload to work with,” said Charge Nurse Kristen Danley. “And as the charge nurse, I wanted to evenly distribute that work to all of the staff members so that not one nurse felt like they were drowning in an assignment.”

Danley was one of the nurses who came up with the idea for PANT. It’s an innovative tool that helps calculate the amount of time nurses spend on certain tasks and creates a number or color for each patient.

“So things like administering medications, ambulating someone to the restroom, inserting an IV catheter,” said Sentara PANT coordinator Kelsey Jones, “… we’ve linked that time to their nursing documentation that they do throughout their shift to create a patient specific score.”

Prior to the software, each nurse was typically assigned the same number of patients each day by a charge nurse, but some of those patients might have higher needs than others, and there was no way to take that into consideration without looking at each individual chart.

“You might have to dig more into the charts and know every little detail of what’s going on, versus now with PANT, parts of that are automated,” Chrystal Stratton said.

The program was piloted at Sentara in 2016, then expanded across their 12 hospitals a year later.

It’s continued to grow and develop since then, and was vital during the pandemic when they had limited resources and nurse burnout among staff members was at its peak.

“How can we still meet the demands of our patients and our community that is coming in and adjust our workload — the amount that we have per shift — per day to meet those patient needs,” Jones said.

A program for nurses, by nurses, providing quality care.

“I still have to know a lot about the unit and what’s happening with each of these patients,” Stratton said, “but at the same time, some of that work is removed, with a number assigned, or color assigned so I can balance everybody’s number total with the nurse, their strong points, their personalities, patient personalities, because happy patients and happy nurses is really what matters the most.”

PANT is receiving national recognition in the nursing field, also.

Leaders also hope this tool may also help attract new people to go into the nursing field, as many hospitals deal with a nationwide nursing shortage following the pandemic.

For more information about Sentara’s Patient Acuity Nursing Tool, or PANT, click here.

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