INDIANAPOLIS — Everyone has learned to adapt to changes during this pandemic, especially those who work in health care. For them, there's been the added stress of having to work more to fill the gap as many hospitals face staffing shortages.
That's why IU Health has launched an innovative way to fill shifts and integrate departments from hospital to hospital. It's called the "I Can Help" app. It launched at the end of July, and it's become wildly popular among staff and patients.
Debra Northard normally works at Fairbanks as an administrative coordinator for integrated care management in downtown Indy. But lately, she's been booking extra shifts to help fill the gaps at all IU Health hospitals due to a worker shortage.
She has selected to work at IU Health in Avon because it's closer to her home. She was already helping volunteering when the COVID crisis hit and was excited about the new opportunity.
"I had originally worked at Riley Hospital at the vaccine clinic when the COVID vaccine became available," Northard said. "I worked there for like six months. So when it was over with, I thought, 'What else can I do?' And then the app popped up and obviously this is perfect for me."
Northard prefers to work in departments where she has contact with patients and nurses. Typically she will take a shift that is normally filled by a nurse, freeing up that nurse to do more important things than unpacking boxes or stocking shelves.
"I do all the nonclinical, and that gives the nurses time to spend with their patients, which is what they really need to do," Northard said.
Mary Drewes, associate chief nurse executive for IU Health System Nursing, said so far, there have been 8,000 submissions to fill vacancies.
"It's been such a blessing to our team members and our patients because really everybody — all leaders and team members — are able to experience what is going on inside the inpatient world, which can be challenging at times," Drewes said.
While confident IU Health will always be able to maintain award-winning patient care, the benefit to employees like Northard is a game-changer for health care.
"We get emails and comments and 'thank you for allowing us to do this.' It's been such a wonderful thing," Drewes said. She said the nurses being able to connect with the patients more has been a blessing.
It's also a way for employees to make extra money. They can choose to either donate the hours they are working, or get paid for it.
Drewes said the app is so successful, even when the worker shortage crisis is over in the U.S., they will likely still use it.