Recognizing Nurse Burnout: AI as a Partner, Not a Replacement (Podcast)

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Top Story: Recognizing Nurse Burnout: AI as a Partner, Not a Replacement (Podcast)

It’s no surprise that the healthcare sector is struggling with a significant shortage of nursing and clinical staff. Consequently, this shortage is progressively affecting the quality of patient care.

A January 2024 Advisory Board survey stated that nearly 91% of senior nurses spend time on administrative tasks, diverting their attention from direct patient care. In addition, quality improvement activities (75%) and staff retention initiatives (70%) also take up a significant amount of their time, all requiring them to take more hours and work under higher pressure.

So, how common is burnout in nursing? Very common. Almost two-thirds of nurses (62%) experience burnout. It’s especially common among younger nurses, with 69% under age 25 reporting burnout.

Steer Health’s founder and CEO, Sridhar Yerramreddy, was recently featured on Becker’s Healthcare Podcast Series to talk about the nurse workforce and the importance of implementing technology into healthcare workflows to decrease this burden and allow providers to focus on what matters: patient care.  

Sridhar comes from a family of physicians. His dad is a surgeon and his mom is an obstetrician. Seeing them provide for people his whole life made him gravitate toward the healthcare space. 

For most of his career, Sridhar worked in technology and automating. From brick-and-mortar to e-commerce and self-service. But, his mission at Steer Health is to offload work on our clinicians and staff with technology, AI, and a streamlined workflow. 

Read on to see Sridhar’s take on how hospitals can identify the early warning signs and long-term consequences of an unchecked problem, and the potential of AI to ease workloads while emphasizing the irreplaceable human touch in nursing care.


Erika Spicer Mason, MPH, Custom Content Coordinator and Writer/Editor at Becker’s Healthcare, Sridhar Yerramreddy, founder & CEO of Steer Health. 

Erika Spicer Mason: I wanted to start a little bit high level with our discussion. We’re seeing in national data that despite nursing being the most trusted profession, nurses seem to be the least respected and also the most stressed. So as hospitals ramp up retention initiatives and also well-being initiatives, how do you think they can encourage nurses and leaders to recognize the early warning signs of burnout? And what are some of the long-term consequences of this issue if it goes unchecked? 

Sridhar Yerramreddy: It’s a great question. I think nurses are the backbone of our health system. They not only help patients, but also doctors and make their lives easier in every step of the patient’s journey.

Nursing has seen significant strain during the past few years, especially with being overworked and underappreciated. And as leaders in healthcare, I think they need to establish a kind of environment where nurses can express their state of mind without fear of judgment, and be able to create collaboration. 

I also believe it’s important for healthcare organizations to promote self-care for nursing staff so they can develop healthy routines and make sure that they’re able to focus on their own lives as they’re serving others.

It is one of the most noble professions in the world where they give their lives to the service of others. And I think it’s important to really highlight that. As long as nurses are cared for by the organizations and proactively addressing the burnout through education, support systems, and right management, we can all help nurses thrive, protect their patient care, and ensure the long term sustainability of the health care that we know of. 

Erika Spicer Mason: I really appreciate how you highlighted support being needed both for nurses and their personal lives, but also in the work that they do every day for hospitals and health systems. And I noticed that one of the supports that you mentioned was technology. 

I’m wondering if you can also share some specific examples of how technology, particularly AI, is being used successfully to ease nursing workloads. And on the other hand, what aspects of care should really maintain the human touch from nurses versus technology? 

Sridhar Yerramreddy: Yeah, another great question, Erika. Thank you, I appreciate that. As patients, we’re all healthcare consumers when we go see a doctor or get admitted in a hospital. God forbid, right? 

And, these patients have a call button. When they press this call button, they could be calling for many, many reasons, including clinical care. But 80 to 90 percent of the time, they generally call for things like supplies or needing food or asking for help to the toilet or cleaning the room or removing the sheets. 

There are various non-clinical or administrative tasks that nurses get pulled into, which takes away their focus on the clinical care. 

And I believe really strongly that using AI and technology empowers patients to reach out to respective departments through the power of their phone or power of the technology where they can request these things and really offload a lot of this administrative work or administrative burden on the nurses. 

In addition to that, AI has really strong underpinnings in providing what I call superpowers to the nurses by streamlining tasks such as patient check-ins. Providers can virtually check in to see the patient’s pain level or how they are recovering in inpatient care.

They can leverage that data to plan the discharge summaries or other tasks. So, I truly believe that AI can be that superpower for nurses, but it will never replace them. Healthcare, as we all know, is a human-centered profession, right? The human touch is essential, and we can really offload the nurses from all these administrative tasks.

For instance, the call button requires a lot of non-clinical work, and we can bring nurses back to the core of building trust in advocating for their patients and providing the care that technology cannot replicate. 

Erika Spicer Mason: A lot of what you’re saying, Sridhar, really aligns with what I’ve heard, especially more recently among the healthcare leaders.

Becker’s just had our 14th annual meeting last week, and I heard so many leaders comment on how they’re really desiring applications of AI that aren’t quote-unquote flashy, but they’re simply helping to augment their workforce, take away those mundane tasks, and take away literal and physical steps that nurses have to take throughout their shifts. 

It really seems like those small tasks, like you mentioned, changing beds or other non-clinical tasks could really save a lot of time and headache. 

Sridhar Yerramreddy: Erika, I was just going to mention the hunting and gathering saying, you know, nurses spend close to 30 to 40% of their time finding departments and trying to be the intermediary department identifying the service providers and connecting back to patients.

It’s a pretty big issue. And I think if we don’t free up the nurses from this, what I call, “clerical intermediation work,” this ultimately will compromise their well-being and the care patients are receiving. 

Erika Spicer Mason: That 30 to 40% metric is really powerful, so I appreciate you highlighting that. Looking ahead, it seems like there’s a lot of opportunities that hospitals and health systems have to engage nurses in innovative applications of AI to really help reduce their burden and reduce their workload.

What do you recommend in terms of how leaders can really help nurses engage with new tools? Because I know that it’s not easy. Change management is really difficult for many. So, how can leaders effectively manage change there? And what would an ideal future look like where nurses and AI are operating harmoniously? 

Sridhar Yerramreddy: It’s a very important question. Technology is not the end-all-be-all. I think the most important thing to introduce the change management data is to augment nurses’ capabilities. 

Nurses sign up for this profession mainly to serve the patients. Using this angle and trying to educate them on how today’s technology can help offload and amplify their clinical skills, and provide help with time-consuming, non-clinical work is key. The end goal is really to make sure that they’re freeing up the nurses’ time and energy to focus on what they do best, which is humanizing healthcare and providing patients the comfort of care.

I also believe that, in terms of a lot of this technology, nurses should be the ones driving this change. This will be really more useful than any IT or any other department trying to push this on them. 

We have historically seen a lot of technologies come in and some technologies overdrive in situations. So, we really need to ensure that nurses truly create this change workflow and that it’s built to offload work, not to add any more work on them.

Erika Spicer Mason: Absolutely. And I can imagine that having a few designated nurse champions for a new tool or a new technology would go a long way, not only in empowering the rest of the staff to use the new tool but, to help see success and the outcomes that the organization’s looking for. 

Well, thank you so much, Sridhar, for all of your insights.

I think this is such an important topic for our listeners to keep at the top of their minds, at the forefront of their minds. And, you know, before we hop off, is there anything that you think that they should know that maybe we missed in our discussion or anything you’d like to leave them with? 

Sridhar Yerramreddy: I just want to mention a couple of things. I think nursing is the foundation of our health system and the backbone, as I mentioned earlier.

And while I just think the burnout is paramount, the potential of technology and AI in nursing workflows is genuinely exciting because it can offload a lot of these mundane and repetitive tasks. 

I think it’s important to highlight that this is a time for a positive change where nurses can shape the future of their profession by leveraging these tools and truly deliver what they signed up for, which is like really humanizing care and care delivery. 

Erika Spicer Mason: Thanks so much, Sridhar. Your passion for nursing and your commitment to making their work lives easier really comes through. And, I just appreciate all the insights and the discussion today. Thanks again for joining the podcast. 

Sridhar Yerramreddy: It’s my pleasure. And thank you for having me here. 

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