What is the Gig Economy and its Impact on the Field of Nursing?
The renaissance of the side gig brought about an influx of workers taking on additional jobs through short-term contract work in addition to, or in place of, their full-time gig. And many of these gig brands are enabled by technology. Upwork’s website connects companies with a network of skilled freelancers to complete projects in their field, while ride-sharing apps like Uber connect a network of drivers to passengers who need a ride. In both instances, these technologies have helped companies and individuals get a task done more easily than ever before and have allowed workers to make money without sacrificing autonomy over their schedule.
In recent years, the gig economy’s impact has continued to skyrocket. Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (via Forbes) reported that over 35% of the United States workforce participates in the gig economy. It’s projected to reach 43% by 2020. The gig economy allows workers greater flexibility and the ability to build their own schedule so that they can spend more time with their families and friends, go back to school or simply spend their time how they wish.
In fact, providing workers with greater control of their work schedule has been linked in studies to higher rates of job satisfaction. It’s no wonder, then, why some gig workers choose to make their part-time gig their main source of income.
These are all benefits nurses wanted — and deserved — but really didn’t have in any health care setting until recently.
Nurses enter the gig economy
I have been a nurse for over nine years, and I know that nurses really care, but they’re also incredibly burnt out.
Nursing professionals like myself choose their line of work because they are answering the call to help others. In a recent survey, many nurses cited helping others as their favorite part of the job. But long hours on their feet, the wear and tear of a stressful job, and a lack of flexibility can lead to nurse burnout.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized burnout as an official medical condition, characterized as “feelings of energy depletion,” “increased mental distance from one’s job” and “reduced professional efficacy.” According to a 2013 report, half a million nurses left their profession, and a third of those nurses cited emotional exhaustion as a result.
This is partly because the job is stressful, but it’s also a result of short staffing. Post-acute facilities particularly struggle to build robust internal nursing staff — partly because of the U.S.’s nurse-staffing shortage and also because they don’t have the financial stability to pay staff. This only increases pressure on their nursing staff to pick up the slack, so between mandated overtime and lack of flexibility for nurses to choose when they work and how often, burnout is inevitable. Burnout can be the last straw that motivates a nurse to leave a facility or, worse yet, the field entirely, which would only exacerbate the nurse staffing shortage.
My nursing career started on the front lines of patient care — and I was no stranger to burnout. It was commonplace that I or a colleague would be stuck working a mandatory double shift of covering for a call off. If needed, nurses will always elect to stay and not abandon their patients.
Later, when I was working as a nurse union leader, I sought out staffing agencies as a solution to our staffing issues, despite the negative connotation agencies have in health care. But their outdated manual systems didn’t have the bandwidth to fill last-minute callouts on such short notice, and I remember thinking how much better nurses’ experiences would be — and how much more effective and efficient health care staffing would be — if there was a technology to automate the process.
Since then, health care staffing technology solutions like Medely, Nomad and the one that my company offers give nurses and clinicians the power to build their own schedules through an app.
Reducing burnout through technology
These tech-enabled health care staffing “gigs” give nursing professionals the freedom to work when they want. Similar to the way an Uber driver picks up a ride in their app, nurses can browse potential shifts on their app and can filter shifts based on when and where they’d like to work. So, if they want to make time for their family, friends, healthy living and rest, they can. Plus, at per diem rate, nurses can craft their perfect schedule, and get paid well at the same time. This technology has the potential to not only combat the short staffing struggles health care facilities faced throughout the United States, but they can also create a better nursing experience for nurses.
Other kinds of technologies are pitching in to help reduce burnout and improve the nurse experience. Moxi, a robot built by Diligent Robotics, was designed to complete tasks done by nurses that do not involve patient-interaction. The hope is that the robot can help nurses spend more time with patients and less time completing tedious tasks.
Downsides of the life of a gig worker
Of course, there are drawbacks to the life of a gig worker. Benefits are not always a sure thing, taxes can be more confusing, and balancing multiple gigs can potentially create more stress. But even if the gig lifestyle isn’t for everyone, I believe the autonomy of gig work in a stressed-out industry like health care is one way to keep workers happy, entice them to remain in the nursing profession and, ultimately, inspire other health care tech entrepreneurs to explore solutions to improve (or better yet, solve) the issues within the health care landscape.
I know as the nursing experience evolves, nurses will continue to care, and nurses will continue to work odd hours. But nurses don’t have to be burnt out, and we shouldn’t resign ourselves to allowing them to suffer in a profession they love.
Article originally appeared on: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/09/27/the-gig-economy-has-arrived-in-the-world-of-nursing/#67f0c0396274 written by Chris Caulfield