Filling the Gaps

Local innovators work to address staffing shortages in healthcare and education

The late, great Leah Chase once said, “New Orleans is a city that is full of life and energy, but it’s also a city that knows how to come together and overcome hardship.” Challenges are nothing new to the Big Easy, but to address the current issues with healthcare staffing and teacher shortages, we have to think outside the box. Some local entrepreneurs are using innovative technology to help address these complex problems.

Healthcare facilities have been facing a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals, including nurses, physicians and allied health workers. Those that are still working in the health systems could be overworked or feeling the effects of burnout, which in this industry, could result in an increase in medical errors and healthcare-acquired infections.

That’s part of the reason Heidi Raines started Performance Health Partners (PHP), a software company providing patient safety, employee health and quality improvement solutions to healthcare organizations. Raines said that most medical errors occur because of flawed systems, not reckless practitioners, and systems can (and should) learn from these errors. PHP’s tools, which she calls an “enterprise risk management system,” are powered by advanced analytics that help healthcare leaders and managers root out and predict failures and underlying safety issues so that teams can take corrective action quickly.

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“Essentially, we’re helping them uncover gaps in processes and the root cause of incidents and potential incidents so they can prevent patient and employee harm from occurring,” Raines said. Another part of PHP’s solution is putting more of the power in the hands of employees, making it easier for staff to report problems — they can even do it anonymously so there’s no fear of facing retribution for speaking out. “When leadership does not act quickly or take concerns seriously when staff reports incidents, it can contribute to a culture where reporting is not seen as valuable or encouraged,” Raines said. “Empowering employees to speak up and address their concerns can help reduce burnout, anxiety, depression and the likelihood of leaving their jobs.”

Teacher shortages have also been a persistent problem in the city, with schools struggling to fill teaching positions and retain experienced educators. Another local company using innovative technology to help address a major problem in the city is Torsh.

Company founder Courtney Williams described Torsh as an ed-tech company that provides an online coaching and professional learning platform for teachers and educators. “Simply put, we make it possible for organizations to provide coaching and development to teachers so that teachers can get better,” Williams said. “And better teachers produce better students.”

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For Williams, who grew up a poor immigrant from Jamaica, it’s also about improving outcomes for kids who might not have the best resources or access at home. Williams said one of the most critical factors in a young child’s success is the quality of their teachers. “A really good teacher is going to teach more material in a set period of time, than a less good teacher. And if you’re a student who comes from a poor background or comes from a home where you don’t have college-educated parents, then you really need a good teacher to sort of compensate for what you’re not getting at home,” Williams said.

While Torsh is currently focused on using digital tech to train teachers, Williams said the technology can be deployed across a wide range of areas — including healthcare. “We don’t see any good reason right now, though perhaps at a later date, to jump into healthcare,” Williams said. “Because there are people that are using our same concepts in healthcare, they have that knowledge, and they’re making it possible for those teachers to get services or nurses — or nursing students — to get that help.”

There’s an old saying about judging a society by how it treats those in the dawn of life, the children; those in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the disabled. The challenges in both the healthcare and education sectors are complex and require innovative solutions to address them. But folks who live here and know these issues intimately, like Raines and Williams, are working to meet and overcome them.

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Did you know? In the 2023 Survey of Registered Nurses by AMN Healthcare, 30% of nurses reported that they are likely to leave their career due to the pandemic, up 7 points since 2021.

 

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