Nursing Burnout Solutions: A Q&A on a Digitized Competency Management Approach to Staffing Challenges


Jai Shah, CEO of Kahuna Workforce Solutions, discusses nursing challenges from staffing shortages to burnout. Learn how digitized competency management transforms patient care, patient safety, and nurse satisfaction.

Infection Control Today's Trending Topic: Patient Safety

Infection Control Today's Trending Topic: Patient Safety

From staffing shortages to the ever-evolving landscape of infection prevention, the demands on nurses and infectious disease specialists are immense. In this Q&A session with Infection Control Today® (ICT®), Jai Shah, cofounder and CEO of Kahuna Workforce Solutions, sheds light on the critical issues faced by nursing professionals, the impact of turnover rates on burnout, and how digitized competency management can revolutionize patient care and safety, nurse satisfaction, and the future of health care.

ICT: Would you elaborate on the current challenges faced by nursing workforces, including infection preventionists (IPs), particularly in terms of staffing shortages, lack of visibility into skills, and the resulting impact on patient care and nurse liability?

Jai Shah: Staffing shortages and a lack of visibility into skills across the nursing workforce, including IPs, directly impact patient care and nurse liability. Insufficient staffing levels paired with inaccessible and cumbersome skills tracking processes can lead to overworked nurses or mismatched skills and patient care requirements. This mismatch can lead to an increase in adverse events, putting patients at risk and increasing liability for both the clinician and the health system.

Digitized competency management plays a significant role in mitigating these risks, providing visibility for all nurses at an individual level and at the unit or health system level. This transparency enables the system to staff a unit with fully qualified nurses to care for their patients' needs, prevent infections, and significantly mitigate risks. This visibility into skills also provides transparency for nurses throughout the health system to understand their existing skill sets and how they can be further developed to excel in their career path.

ICT: The statistics highlight a high turnover rate among new nurses, with 18% changing jobs or professions within the first year. How does this turnover rate contribute to the broader issue of nursing burnout, and what are the implications for patient safety?

JS: Turnover is a number 1 concern across all health systems. With new nurses leaving their positions at accelerated rates, the remaining nurses at a system are left to take on heavier workloads, exacerbating nurse burnout and stress and introducing a higher risk of errors and potential impacts to patient safety. The cost of nurse turnover is also significant to a health system’s bottom line, affecting recruiting, onboarding, and training budgets, as well as other hospital resources reserved for patient care initiatives.

Eliminating paper-based competency management programs and processes positively impacts the day-to-day lives of nurses, nurse managers, and preceptors, as it improves efficiency, provides visibility into existing versus required skills and competencies, enables competency-based staffing to ensure quality patient care, and removes the burdensome and antiquated processes of paper-based nurse onboarding and ongoing assessments. These process improvements not only promote a safer work environment, but a positive culture and improved nurse satisfaction.

ICT: Kahuna Workforce Solutions emphasizes upskilling nurses as a measure to address burnout. Could you explain how strategic upskilling can alleviate pressure on nurses and others in infection prevention and contribute to a more sustainable health care environment?

JS: Upskilling initiatives are an investment into developing a health system’s existing nursing population. This focus on development is as much a culture shift as it is a process, as it ultimately guides nurses in seeing their potential advancement and development opportunities in their nursing career, specifically within that health system, speaking to the investment leadership is making in their careers and their success. This type of transparency improves nurse satisfaction, sentiment, and fulfillment and brings forward a motivation to excel and care for patients to achieve higher-quality patient outcomes.

ICT: Kahuna’s competency skills management software is mentioned as a solution to establish nursing competence. How does this software work, and what specific benefits does it offer to health care organizations in terms of skills validation and staff mobilization?

JS: Kahuna helps clinical education, nursing leadership, and administration teams address the pain points tied to legacy methods of assigning, assessing, and managing skills and competencies. Kahuna is designed to organize, assess, and validate workforce competencies and help the business use informed data to make strategic decisions.

With Kahuna, health care systems can advance competence with trusted experience data integrated from the electronic health record (EHR), reducing overall time to competence through on-the-job experience rather than a training-only approach. This allows health care systems to reduce redundant assessments on skills routinely performed by specifying requirements to be completed upon recertification and linking these to the validated experience records captured in an EHR.

Kahuna enables mobilization by allowing health systems to forecast skills demand, create personalized development plans, and manage progress to target skills through capability planning analytics within the software.

ICT: With the current generation of specialized nurses, including those in infection prevention, retiring, there's a looming threat of millions of vacant positions. How does Kahuna's approach help prepare the next generation of nurses and ensure a smooth transition to specialized roles like infection preventionists?

JS: Kahuna’s competency management software provides complete visibility into the skills, competencies, experiences, and certifications of nurses across a health system, whether it be an individual, unit, or system level. As the existing generation of nurses retires, health systems can analyze granular skills and competency data in an actionable view to understand where critical gaps exist. This data can pinpoint how the existing younger generations of their nursing staff could be trained and developed to fill the vacant positions, especially the more specialized ones. It also acts as a guide for hiring nurses that specifically meet critical patient care requirements.

Additionally, younger generations crave efficiency, autonomy, and transparency into how their work contributes to the greater organization. Kahuna’s digitized competency program speaks to a health system’s commitment to the success of its staff. It uses an innovative approach to competency-based staffing and nurse development, especially as nurses transition to more specialized roles such as infection preventionists.

ICT: Looking ahead, what broader changes or initiatives do you believe are essential to address the nursing burnout crisis and create a sustainable and supportive environment for health care professionals?

JS: As health systems look to the future, increasing efficiency is crucial to alleviate nurse burnout and produce a more supportive health care environment. Each stakeholder involved in competency management processes faces manual, laborious, and burdensome administrative tasks daily, taking away from the work they care about — helping nurses develop in their careers and caring for patients with quality care — and adding to their fatigue, frustration, and burnout. Paying higher salaries without attending to these details puts a bandaid on a much more critical wound. Health systems looking to create a more sustainable, supportive, and engaging health environment should consider the following:

  • Implementing digitized, efficient competency management processes to enable competency-based staffing.
  • Focusing on effective workforce planning and development ensures nursing resources are staffed based on patient needs.
  • Highlighting opportunities for upskilling or further training and development to enable nurses to specialize in specific care areas, enhance their skill sets, provide the care they can for patients, and improve their job satisfaction.
  • Introducing flexible work schedules to accommodate diverse needs.
  • Using technology and data analytics to properly optimize staffing ratios, patient acuity, and workload.
  • Integrating technology solutions to streamline administrative tasks and reduce paperwork to enable nurses to focus on patient care.
Related Videos
Infection Control Today Topic of the Month: Mental Health
Infection Control Today's topic of the month: Mental Health
Infection Control Today Topic of the Month: Mental Health
Mindful MD: 6 Ways Mindfulness Restores Your Autonomy and Cures Healthcare Burnout  (Photo credit: Tori Whitacre Martonicz)
Meet the winner of the Infection Control Today Educator of the Year Award: Sharon Ward-Fore, BS, MS, MT(ASCP), CIC, FAPIC.
Related Content