The Push-Pull Of AI In The Healthcare Workplace: Addressing Nursing Concerns Before Unions Take Advantage

by | May 20, 2024 | AI Coach's Corner, AI tips, Artificial Intelligence, CNA NNOC, CWA, Healthcare, Healthcare, Industry, Labor Relations Ink, Labor Relations Insight, SEIU, Strikes, Tech - Media, Trending, Unions

For many workers, the Artificial Intelligence rollout is a source of tension over how the technology could impact their employment. We are also only starting to see how some unions and employers are negotiating upon AI.

In the healthcare industry, AI might be particularly messy. Some reports indicate that hospitals have tested 1,500+ different platforms over five years. You can only imagine how much trial and error has occurred and added to nurses’ stressed-out work environments, which have grown more chaotic since the pandemic began. How bad is that situation?

The Journal of Nursing Regulation reported that over 200,000 RNs started to leave the profession annually in 2022. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also predicts the number of vacant job openings for RNs will average 193,100 annually through 2030. That issue worsens when nursing unions call for strikes to protest staffing shortages, a vicious cycle resulting in 1,208 days out and 17,857 lost work days since 2020.

Source: LRIRightnow

It’s no wonder that hospital executives are turning to AI to fill some gaps, and we recently discussed whether AI nursing “bots” could help or harm the nursing profession. Naturally, unions have also pounced on AI like any other hot-button issue, and National Nurses United published survey results of 2,300 members, which – if accurate – suggest fuel for unions:

  • 60% of the surveyed nurses don’t trust their employers to deploy AI, with patient safety at the forefront of concerns.
  • 50% of respondents revealed that their employers use AI to assess the severity of patient illness; 69% of this group said that AI’s conclusions did not match their own judgment.
  • 48% said that A.I. Handoffs during shift changes included errors, underscoring the value of “direct nurse-to-nurse communication.”
  • 29% of respondents were not allowed to modify AI’s categorical assessments, and 40% could not adjust scores on “individualized needs” for patients.

Kaiser Permanente nurses feel so strongly about these issues that they have been protesting in San Francisco over the potential dangers of AI and risks to patient safety. The lesson here? Healthcare employers should expect AI to be a significant future bargaining issue.

Further reading: In this op-ed from former RN Kari Cotton of Rapid AI software, Cotton declares that “nurses are not fundamentally opposed” to AI, but they worry that their concerns will be ignored. Additionally, execs must trust nurses’ judgment and not diminish their decision-making calls. Employers should further stress that AI is not meant to replace nurses and that their workplace contributions are invaluable.

Another side of the AI coin: Healthcare organizations are also beginning to explore AI resources to crack down on workplace violence. At a Texas hospital, AI-based monitoring software can detect firearms within seconds of brandishing a weapon. In Nebraska, a similar system caught 1,000+ weapons brought into an ER waiting room.

Conclusion: Clearly, there are scenarios where AI can save lives in the healthcare workplace. Yet it’s always worth mulling over how unions will twist an issue for their own benefit – and remember that when considering how far to lean into AI to ease nursing workloads.


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