Chief Nursing Officers have a wide variety of responsibilities. Their role has become more complex with the COVID-19 pandemic, social injustices, and systemic racism in the United States.
The pandemic is straining the healthcare profession. Nurses are under immense stress and Nursing leaders need to use best practices to address the mental and emotional trauma their teams are enduring.
In an article by HealthLeaders, Penn Medicine Princeton Health Chief Nursing Officer, Sheila Kempf, PhD, RN, NEA-BC said they are implementing many strategies to care for Nurses' mental health.
Some of those strategies include training staff to recognize the signs of being at high risk for emotional distress, and when peers should be referred to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Also the hospital has contracted a trauma clinical Psychologist to talk with staff and run support groups with the EAP and the Ministries department.
CNO's should recommend frequent breaks or a quiet space for Nurses to retreat to.
Nurse leaders are also facing the challenges of short staffing, low resources, and supplies.
According to a survey by Inspire Nurse Leaders, 53% of Nurse Leaders reported difficulty meeting work and family needs due to inadequate staffing.When there is a surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations, it forces hospitals to increase their number of beds. According to Ruth Risley-Gray, SVP and CNO at Aspirus Health Care, in order to meet high demands as they emerge, health systems shift Nurses between departments and facilities.
Risley-Gray also said, health systems need to hire outside help when Nurses become infected or get exposed to the virus. Aspirus is offering Nurses who have at least one year's experience a $15,000 signing bonus, as well as employing contract Nurses via private staffing companies.
2020 not only brought forth a pandemic, it also put a spotlight on systemic racism and racial health disparities.
Sharon Hampton, PhD, RN and Director of Clinical Operations at Stanford Health said, "We've discussed our ethical and moral responsibilities to deal with this crisis. Nursing is really in this position to help the public understand and to advocate."
Healthcare systems and Nurse leaders should be promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels of the workplace.
Kelly Hancock, RN, DNP and Executive CNO of the Cleveland Clinic Health System, said more diversity would help the Nursing workforce “provide more customized, culturally-sensitive and safer care” and “better assess, accommodate and cater to the healthcare needs of different minority groups.”
Those in leadership positions should reflect the diverse patient populations they serve.
According to HealthLeaders Media, a study by the Institute for Diversity and Health Equity found that racial minorities represented 32% of patients in hospitals that participated in the study, but similar representation wasn't found among the health care leadership. According to the study, 19% of first- and mid-level management positions, 14% of hospital board membership positions, and 11% of executive leadership positions were held by racial minorities.
Hospitals and health systems must commit to increasing diversity within their leadership to improve patient outcomes, reduce racial health disparities, and build stronger communities.