Published on April 15, 2022

NMMC Helping Nurses ‘Rediscover the Joy in Patient Care’

TUPELO, Mississippi—Nurses at North Mississippi Medical Center now have more time to connect with their patients, thanks to a recent project that’s giving them back hours in their day.

The project reduced the time nurses spend documenting in patients’ medical charts by eliminating duplication and unnecessary charting. “This has probably reduced our documentation time in half,” says Sharon Harbin, RN, a charge nurse who cares for medical-surgical patients on NMMC’s 3 South. “Now I have more time to interact with my patients and listen to their concerns.”

Harbin, who has been a nurse for 23 years, says reducing documentation time has worked wonders for job satisfaction. “It has truly made a huge difference for RNs and LPNs,” she said. “Before, we were sometimes staying two hours after our shift ended just to finish charting. Now, we’re much better able to stay caught up throughout the shift.”

Kristen Long, interim chief nursing executive, said the project dates back to 2019 when Megan Hastings, 3 South nurse manager, requested a review of documentation required on medical-surgical units like hers. Around the same time, bedside nurses on NMMC’s Nursing Shared Governance Council identified nursing documentation as a job dissatisfied.

“We convened a team of nurses and representatives from Information Technology Services to review every required data element to check for duplication, necessity and regulatory compliance,” Long said. “We conducted time studies that showed our nurses were spending an average of 86 minutes to document on each patient. Anytime a patient was admitted to or discharged from a unit, it added 40 more minutes of documentation time.”

The findings were staggering—on average, each nurse spent eight hours and 36 minutes of a 12-hour shift documenting the care provided.

Just as the team started building momentum, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The increasing number of patients, coupled with staffing shortages, stressed health care organizations everywhere. “Nurses were frustrated and overwhelmed,” Long said.

Rather than put the project on hold, the team doubled-down on their efforts. They removed duplicated data elements. They reduced the frequency that nurses are required to document certain items, while remaining compliant with regulatory standards. Their hard work paid off. After project implementation on medical-surgical units, “time studies showed that each nurse’s documentation time was reduced 34.5 minutes per patient each shift,” Long said. Multiply that times six patients per nurse, and it’s easy to see why nurses like Anita Manning, RN, 4 South charge nurse, are so pleased with the outcome.“It gives us more time at the bedside, so we’re better able to assess and take care of our patients,” Manning said. “We can connect with them and get to know our patients on a more personal level. We have more of a chance to talk to them and find out more about their health history, as well as help make things easier for them when they go home.”

Manning became a nurse nine years ago after working in a factory for 15 years. She was drawn to a career in nursing when her father was diagnosed with cancer. Now with less time spent charting, “I feel much more accomplished at the end of the day,” she said. “It’s more meaningful for me and my patients.”

Nursing leaders and IT staff are now expanding the project throughout North Mississippi Health Services.

“Every single day the nurses tell me the best thing we’ve done lately is reduce their documentation time,” Long said. “As an RN myself, I take joy in getting to know my patients and their families. Building these relationships is what we all want – it’s why we got into nursing. Giving our nurses more of their time back has helped them rediscover the joy in patient care."

Sharon Harbin

Sharon Harbin, RN, 3 South charge nurse, says reducing charting time “has truly made a huge difference for RNs and LPNs.”

Anita Manning

Anita Manning, RN, 4 South charge nurse says less charting allows for more meaningful time with patients. 

Kirsten Long

Kristen Long, Interim Chief Nursing Executive

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