Nursing Shortage Easing?
Not a Lean article, but a major issue for hospitals is a shortage of nurses. With the economy in its current condition, more nurses are returning to work. There's still a need for the reduction of wasted motion and wasted time in a nurse's workday… that's the Lean concept.
“Hospitals have also taken steps to keep older nurses in the work force by making their jobs easier, including replacing hand cranks used to lift beds with automated lift devices, bringing in lift teams so nurses don't strain themselves picking up patients, or putting supplies closer to patients' rooms to cut down on walking.”
These are good practices, regardless of age. Lift assists are better ergonomically for nurses (preventing injury) and they can also help prevent patient falls. Reducing walking is good since that wasted time can be used in more productive ways (such as patient care).
Keeping supplies closer to rooms — that goes against a previous trend toward centralized inventory cabinets (often automated) in a floor or unit. The advantages were all for materials management — it was easier to restock and kept better control of inventory. But, optimizing materials management shouldn't be the primary goal. The nurses are providing “value added” care — the job of the rest of the organization should be to support them in “making their jobs easier.” There's a pretty direct parallel to a factory using material handlers to allow assembly operators to be more efficient.
You don't want assembly workers to stop, looking for parts. You don't want surgeons digging and searching for tools during a procedure (nurses or techs hand the instruments to the surgeon, an old idea that originally came from Frank Gilbreth). You also don't want nurses to be roaming around, searching for medications or supplies either. Systems and processes (and technology) need to support them in the way they do their jobs.