Using temporary healthcare staff gets a bad wrap. At best it’s often considered a necessary evil by many hospitals. Yes, there are several potentially negative things such as high costs, internal political issues, additional risk and managing a time consuming/manual process.
However, if used effectively, temporary per diem or contract (traveler) staff from healthcare suppliers can be incredibly beneficial and advantageous to your organization.
Here are my top 10 reasons for effectively using temporary healthcare staff at your hospital:
1. It doesn’t have to be time consuming. There are several ways to automate the management of staff from healthcare suppliers. Everything from job requisitions, credential management, timekeeping, invoicing and reporting can now be automated. The methods for doing so can be as simple as better using email and expanding existing staffing or timekeeping systems to partnering with a staffing supplier that offers Managed Services or a healthcare VMS company.
2. Last minute needs. Your census changes daily, sometime hourly. If a major fluctuation occurs you can’t hire to your census. Having contracts with valued staffing suppliers that can assist you in these times can ensure you are properly staffed when you are in need.
3. Increase your hospitals revenue. Unmet staffing levels can lead to turfing patients, which can lead to unfilled beds. Unfilled beds can lead to a lack of revenue for your hospital. Therefore, ensuring proper staffing levels or even increasing your staffing levels in order to take care of more patients can help your hospitals bottom line.
4. It’s not always more expensive. Lets face it. Employees are expensive. Depending on what metrics you are using – employers can spend up to an extra 35 – 50% on top of an employees salary for benefits and other overhead costs, not to mention costs associated with attrition. So, with that, consider the typical markup of a healthcare staffing supplier (35 – 50%). Remember, the client only pays for time worked and orientation costs (in some cases). There are no associated recruitment, hiring or attrition costs. Therefore, using temporary staff in a well planned and managed way can actually end up saving you quite a bit of money. Lisa Amorao from ATR has a post specifically on this topic in her company’s staffing blog.
5. Maintaining steady usage ensures you have staff when you need it. If you infrequently contact your staffing suppliers they will place you in a lower priority. However, if you maintain a steady relationship with them you ensure they can meet your needs when you most need it. Further, if you’re a hospital that has an in-depth orientation process it’s a good idea to keep orientation slots open and candidates moving through them so that when you do request temporary healthcare professionals you have a pool of staff ready to go in your area – not sitting through orientation.
6. Use more travelers (contract staff). Hospitals that primarily use travelers have more control over their staffing needs. Working with travelers requires more planning and preparation but can help you fill in anticipated staffing gaps due to seasonality and other occurrences. The bill rates for travelers are typically lower due to a longer guarantee of work or from differences in economic factors in different parts of the country. In addition, using travelers allows you to work with individuals who will be at your facility longer and therefore have a greater understanding of your practices and become more efficient in their patient care delivery. Finally, if you find the traveler is someone you would consider hiring – do that. Work with the staffing company to offer the caregiver a new job.
7. Avoid costly overtime pay. The amount your hospital spends on overtime can end up being much more expensive than using temporary staff. I’ve worked with several hospitals that were attempting to reduce their spending on staffing by cutting back on outside staff. However, because these hospitals were inappropriately managing their overtime hours they ended up spending more money than before.
8. Avoid staff burnout. There is a lot of talk about nursing burnout these days. Hospitals have cut back on healthcare supplier usage, however, there is still a nursing shortage. Therefore, in a lot of cases, that means hospitals are asking their staff to work harder. Doing so can be an effective solution in the short term. However, eventually your employees will start suffering from burn out and need reprieve.
9. Starting new projects. Implementing an EMR system? Opening new units? If so, most likely you will become quickly understaffed as your internal staff are dedicated to these new initiatives. Planning ahead of time to cover these projects by partnering with good staffing suppliers will ensure adequate coverage.
10. Insert your reason here. I’m leaving number 10 open for others to provide. Feel free to chime in.