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Through research and innovation, AdventHealth strengthens the nursing experience – and physicians back the effort

This Physician's View opinion piece is written by Neil Finkler, M.D., chief clinical officer for the AdventHealth Central Florida Division which includes Flagler, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties.

The health care industry is facing unique challenges as we navigate through the pandemic.

Not only are physicians reporting record-breaking levels of burnout, emotional exhaustion and occupational distress, but our nursing colleague are also experiencing similar symptoms.

According to a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study, nurses’ emotional exhaustion has gotten increasingly worse during the pandemic. In fact, the nurses surveyed saw their emotional exhaustion increase from 40.6% in 2019 to 46.5% in 2020. During the second year of the pandemic and into 2022, it rose to 49.2%.

This issue of burnout among the nursing community is something I’m proud to say our AdventHealth medical staff passionately advocated for via our annual surveys.

Neil Finkler, M.D. is the chief clinical officer for the AdventHealth Central Florida Division.
Neil Finkler, M.D. is the chief clinical officer for the AdventHealth Central Florida Division.

Through direct and emphatic feedback in our annual survey process, we heard a resounding cry from our physicians, imploring us to take action to retain our high-quality nurses by focusing on improvements around compensation, work intensity, career growth and more.

Following this insight, AdventHealth announced a bold, first-of-its-kind commitment to team members and an investment of more than $571 million to enhance the overall employee experience.

For nurses specifically, AdventHealth took steps to better care for our nursing colleagues, who in turn care for our patients, including:

  • Significantly reduced agency staffing
  • Raised nursing salaries by thousands of dollars to be more competitive
  • Offered financial bonus (through Dec. 31) for direct patient care nurses who commit to stay with the organization - over 90% of those eligible accepted this offer
  • Provided up to $21,000 in tuition reimbursement for employees who pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing and financial assistance to help pay off existing student loans
  • Opened a cutting-edge simulation lab designed to provide realistic training using interactive manikins that simulate a range of health conditions and scenarios
  • Expanded the spiritual and well-being support for nurses, including personalized, on-demand mental health support 24/7
  • Invested in a new research study, open to licensed direct care nurses, that explores psychological and emotional distress known as Moral Injury
  • Developed a psychoeducational group intervention for nurses to help reduce burnout and promote well-being. A randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted by AdventHealth Nursing and Whole-Person Research to examine the effects of this program and initial findings, which were published in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, showed improvements in resilience, self-compassion, perceived stress and emotional exhaustion. Additionally, a secondary analysis, recently published in the Journal of Nursing Administration, shows this program produced a 20% decline in nursing turnover, resulting in a $549,000 cost savings in retention
  • Added virtual nurses and expanded team models that include licensed practical nurses and patient care technicians to reduce a bedside nurse’s workload, increase patient safety and improve support for new nurses.

AdventHealth’s virtual nursing program

AdventHealth’s new virtual nursing program is aimed at assisting bedside nurses. This innovative program allows the virtual nurse to video conference into the TV screen in a patient’s room, almost like knocking on the door, to help the in-person bedside nurses with admissions and discharges.

My physician colleagues agree – the work AdventHealth and our nursing leadership are doing to strengthen the overall nursing experience is a step in the right direction.

How our physicians advocate for nurses....

Dr. Adewale...

Adamola Adewale, MD headshot

Ademola Adewale, MD, emergency medicine physician at AdventHealth East Orlando Campus

Nurses are the bedrock of our trusted patient care and that bedrock cracked during the pandemic of the unvaccinated, which has been a shock to the hospital system. Nurses are critical to our work as physicians because they are our eyes and ears at the bedside. Nurses hold the patients’ hand, they go over their treatment plan and communicate with the family and when patients are dying, nurses are often the last one to see them alive. Working so closely with our patients talks a toll on our nurses and focusing on nursing well-being is key to ensuring our team provide exemplary patient care.”

Dr. Frederick...

John Frederick headshot

John H. B. Frederick, M.D., family medicine physician and medical director inpatient medicine at AdventHealth Waterman

As clinicians, our ability to provide world class health care to our patients depends on how effectively the team can solve the challenges that occur daily in real time and nurses are critical to this. My biggest career diagnoses have come from nurses who saw something I did not see. Every championship winning team is comprised of members who are not only talented, but also deeply invested in each other's success. This is why I will always champion my nursing colleagues; our patients expect and deserve a championship winning team at their bedside every day.”

Dr. McKenzie...

Nathalie McKenzie headshot

Nathalie D. McKenzie, M.D., Gynecologic Oncologist and AdventHealth Central Florida Division – South Region OB/GYN Section Chair and Fellowship Program Director

Supporting our nurses is very important to me for a multitude of reasons. They are the backbone of the health care industry and provide amazing complementary care to all our patients in every facet of medicine including hospital support, medical practices, research initiatives, and even care at home. I feel immense appreciation for our nurses and look forward to future collaborations as we conquer cancer through surgery, research, and novel anti-cancer drugs.”

Dr. McNamee...

Justin McNamee headshot

Justin McNamee D.O., FACEP, medical director and chairman of the emergency department at AdventHealth DeLand

I am a major advocate for the nursing community because I believe nurses are the foundation for the exemplary patient care that is provided at AdventHealth. As an emergency department physician, I heavily rely on my nursing colleagues every day, with every patient. When I am not in the room, the nurses remain attentive and alert me when a patient’s clinical status changes so we can act quickly as a team. Nurses are the heart and soul of the hospital; they have the ability to adapt to any situation, handle emergencies with grace and console patients and families during times of grief. Nurses not only inspire their patients every day to heal, but they also inspire me as a physician to be better every day.”
Nurse and physician shaking hands
AdventHealth physicians stated in a recent survey they depend on their nursing colleagues in a multitude of ways.

Supporting, stabilizing and enhancing our nursing team is truly a top priority as we continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic. We know we’re only as strong as our team and by creating an improved experience for our nurses, our backbone of medicine, we pave the way for an even stronger commitment to clinical excellence.

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