Article

Fill the Role of Supply Chain Manager—and Give Nurses Their Time Back

It can be easier for facilities to hire a full- or part-time employee to handle procurement tasks than to accommodate nurse turnover resulting from burnout.

Nurses take time away from patient care to fill the role of supply chain manager at many non-acute facilities. Many small offices lack a staff person dedicated to procurement because the organization’s size doesn’t warrant a full-time position to place and verify orders. As a result, nurses are pulled away from their patients to deal with inventory issues.

Nurses have hands-on knowledge of the supplies needed to deliver care, so they naturally tend to take ownership of the procurement process if there’s no one else to fill the role. The downside is that instead of spending their time treating patients and delivering care, they’re checking stock and ordering products. Because most facilities have dozens, if not hundreds, of items in inventory, keeping track of supplies can be a time-consuming process.

The fact is, someone has to take the time to order supplies, open boxes, stock items and be responsible for ongoing inventory. Facilities can solve this issue one of two ways—hire a dedicated supply chain manager or outsource the role to a group purchasing organization (GPO). In either case, a dedicated budget is needed for this essential business function.

Let Technology Help With Procurement

A centralized purchasing platform can transition a facility from time-consuming manual inventory processes to fast, accurate automated processes. For example, Envi® is an inventory management procurement software that can cut order processing time by 50%.

TAKE NURSES OUT OF DAY-TO-DAY SUPPLY CHAIN ACTIVITIES

Nurses have difficult, stressful and oftentimes thankless jobs. According to healthcare survey firm PRC in its National Nursing Engagement Report:

  • 15.6% of nurses feel burnout.
  • 97% of nurses who were burned out but didn’t plan to quit reported feeling emotionally exhausted.
  • The demand for nurses is expected to grow by 15% by 2026.

“Burnout is an important topic in healthcare today,” the report’s authors told nurse.org. “We are asking nurses to do more with fewer resources. At the same time, nurses must be compassionate caregivers, technical experts, clinicians and experts.”

Compared to other industries, nurses have a high rate of turnover. In addition, by 2024, the shortage of registered nurses is expected to reach 1.13 million. Asking nurses to also serve as procurement or supply chain managers adds to their workloads and takes them away from patient care.

What to Know

Having nurses handle procurement is not cost efficient, a best practice or in the best interest of patients. Instead, facilities can hire a supply chain manager or outsource to a GPO. This enables savings and streamlines processes.

IMPLEMENT A SIMPLIFIED PROCUREMENT SYSTEM FOR INTERNAL STAFF

Because nurses use the supplies every day and understand what’s needed, they can provide input and guidance. However, facilities are best served by having distinct roles for nurses and for those handling procurement.

A person who’s dedicated to procurement and understands the processes will have expertise in ordering, checking inventory, dealing with returns and handling other areas of purchasing that nurses lack. This enables a more streamlined, cost-efficient approach to procurement that ultimately saves time and ensures proper inventory levels.

For many multilocation organizations, including nursing homes and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), the large amount of inventory can get complex very quickly. That’s why those facilities, in particular, require someone experienced in and dedicated to procurement.

Oftentimes, a pain point for healthcare organizations is coming up with the funds to pay for this position. The flip side is that a supply chain specialist can streamline and simplify procurement by following industry best practices, which saves money on purchases. This person can also ensure the facility never runs out of essential products while keeping inventory lean to avoid paying extra for storage or having unused products expire.

CONSIDER OUTSOURCING PROCUREMENT TO A GPO

Working with a GPO can enable savings—typically 14%—on clinical and business products, pharmaceuticals and services. A GPO also has the expertise, supplier relationships, industry knowledge and detailed analytic reports to identify untapped savings and earn rebates for a particular facility. It can also help automate processes to save time.

An organization’s internal staff can work directly with a GPO. This would typically be the procurement or supply chain manager, or at some small facilities, the office manager. Or, the facility can outsource the entire end-to-end procurement process to a GPO. With this latter option, the GPO will have personnel onsite at the facility to handle procurement. This frees up staff time—including nurses’ time—so they can focus on patient care.

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