Hospitals Look to the Skies to Solve Nursing Shortage Crisis

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After implementing an aviation-based teamwork and communication skills program, one hospital reduced their nurse turnover rate to less than 2%.

According to a recent article in Nursing Economics, U.S. hospitals are suffering from a shortage of registered nurses. By the year 2010 experts fear the shortage could reach 1 million.

Job dissatisfaction is the major reason for the shortage. Across the nation nurses are reporting increases in job related stress and dissatisfaction with nursing. Low staff satisfaction, stressful work environments, and nurse-physician conflict are increasing the nurse exodus.

In response to this growing crisis in healthcare, multiple hospitals are implementing a cutting-edge approach to team building tactics and communication skills, originally adapted from commercial aviation.

“Hospitals are drawn to the aviation-based safety program for its ability to reduce medical error and save costs,” says Captain Steve Harden, president of LifeWings Partners LLC, the leading provider in aviation-based safety programs in healthcare. “However, as safety and efficiency are improved, we are also seeing dramatic improvements in staff satisfaction. Teams that work well together, tend to stay together, and turnover goes down.”

Vanderbilt University Medical Center turned to LifeWings, an organization of active physicians, commercial pilots, and former NASA astronauts, to help provide world-class surgical care. As the program took effect, the turnover rate in their surgical services department decreased to less than 2%, well below the national average of roughly 10%.

Additionally, The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston has also seen dramatic improvements in employee satisfaction, a result of implementing the LifeWings program.

“The teamwork skills workshops were some of the most effective training sessions we have ever seen,” says Dr. Karen Sexton, Chief Executive Officer at UTMB. After implementing the LifeWings Safety System, UTMB was able to achieve an immediate 50% reduction in turnover times in their ORs. With the new program in place, operations run much smoother, improving overall staff satisfaction. “Sometimes the answer to the problem is simple. Just improve the basics, like teamwork and communication, and hospitals like UTMB are able to improve employee satisfaction. This will help them keep the experienced nurses they have and be able to recruit new ones.” notes Mr. Harden.

Improvements in staff retention is just one of the many benefits derived from LifeWings’ initiatives. Organizations who have partnered with LifeWings have virtually eliminated patient harming surgical errors, reduced open malpractice claims files, and improved observed to expected mortality ratios, all while reducing the cost of care.

About LifeWings Partners LLC

LifeWings Partners LLC was founded by a former U.S. Navy Top Gun instructor, commercial airline pilot, and two physicians who are former NASA astronauts. The firm specializes in applying aviation-based teamwork training and safety tools to help healthcare facilities save patients’ lives and reduce costs. LifeWings has helped over 45 facilities nationwide provide better care to their patients. Measurable results are found in all LifeWings’ initiatives, including one hospital’s “wrong surgery” rate went from 1 in 10,000 to 15,000 cases to 1 in 100,000. The firm also conducts Leadership Development workshops for healthcare executive teams.


Steve Harden, President

LifeWings Partners LLC


9198 Crestwyn Hills Drive

Memphis, TN 38125


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