Nurse Burnout, Inventory Mismanagement and Supply Safaris:

Can Hospitals Ease Nurse Burnout with HealthIT Solutions?


In pre-pandemic 2018, the National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare estimated that nurse burnout was already costing the United States $14 billion annually, mostly in employee turnover. The pandemic has exacerbated the stress experienced by nurses.

“For healthcare workers, the pandemic amplified nurse burnout with the extreme workplace pressures, concerns about safety, time away from loved ones, and the myriad of other Covid-19-related concerns,” said Ryan Siemers, Managing Director, Ernst & Young LLP.

While the pandemic has been tough on healthcare workers, one often overlooked sore spot — supply chain issues and inventory mismanagement — further aggravate nurses, a recent survey by Syft, a provider of healthcare inventory control and end-to-end supply chain cost management software and services and Sage Growth Partners confirms. The results show that:

  • Eighty-five percent of nurses encounter challenges documenting supplies
  • Eighty-six percent of nurses leave procedures to hunt for supplies at least occasionally
  • Seventy-six percent of nurses said supply shortages are common

A review of the raw data from the Syft and Sage Growth Partners survey shows that out-of-date procedure cards and unstocked case carts are the primary reason for supply safaris and all the supply mismanagement stress.

“Many times nurses will be working with the physician and patient when they suddenly need to excuse themselves to go on a supply “treasure” hunt,” said Marie Peppers, an LPN who has spent 30 years caring for patients in various medical settings . “Stockouts are a major stressor! So many times nurses do not have what we need to offer quality care. Honestly, I bet it happens 60% of the time!”

One thing is clear, nurse burnout is not a personal psychological failure. Nurse burnout is a symptom of a system in distress. How can hospitals help to solve this issue, increase retention and ultimately improve patient outcomes?

The pandemic has brought Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms into the spotlight and the largest healthcare improvement companies are weighing in on the subject, offering solutions.

“Next-generation Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms are vital technology solutions for providers to drive operational cohesion and efficiency. These cloud-based, EHR-agnostic systems collect data from across departments ─ including supply chain, finance and human resources ─ that can be leveraged broadly to drive meaningful, enterprise-wide performance improvement,” says Bill Marquardt, Vice President of Product Strategy and Planning, Premier Inc. “They allow staff to spot inventory and new items, trigger order options, forecast volume and streamline the entire purchasing process ─ all in real time. The value to organizations includes improved compliance, appropriate utilization, contract optimization and much more.”

These HealthIT solutions must specifically address nurses’ supply chain challenges at the point of use.

“Hospitals are taking steps to improve their supply chains after seeing vulnerabilities exposed by COVID-19, but the survey findings show that they won’t be successful until they start factoring in the nurse experience,” says Todd Plesko, CEO of Syft. “Nurses are experiencing pervasive and troubling challenges related to efficiency, patient safety, waste, and mental health due to supply chains not recognizing their needs. Creating a more nurse-centric supply chain is critical to every hospital’s success.”