Improving the image of healthcare stafffing

ImpressionDuring a recent webinar, the Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA)
reported their findings in regard to the perceptions hospitals have
of healthcare staffing suppliers.  Of the healthcare staffing clients surveyed, 50% of the respondents stated they would
prefer to use fewer temporary healthcare workers.  Of all the major segments in the staffing industry,
healthcare clients had a more negative attitude toward contingent labor than any other segment.  The next closest segment was
Financial/Accounting at 25%, while the
Engineering/Design and Office/Clerical segments surveyed had a
positive perception of using contingent labor.

I think it’s fair to say that we all have a lot of work to do in order to change this negative perception held by hospitals.  In an effort toward this goal, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions that can help healthcare staffing companies improve the image of
their companies, as well as the industry as a whole.

Educate.  When I speak with hospitals most of them still view the use of temporary
healthcare staff as a “necessary evil.”  It’s used as a last resort and something they try to avoid all
together.  However, there are
several positive reasons for using temporary healthcare professionals.  Next time you meet with your hospital
clients try to have a discussion around these benefits.  Help educate them on the positive
outcomes they can receive from working with contingent labor and see if you can have a positive impact on their opinion.

Become a partner.  Start presenting yourself and your organization as a partner.  Instead of just going through the
regular routine of placing staff, sit down with your clients and find out more
about their jobs and goals. 
What are they trying to achieve? 
How are they compensated? 
What are their individual and company primary motivations?  Learning these things will enable you to work with your clients in a combined effort toward helping them achieve their goals.  Your clients will begin to see you as more of a partner and not simply a

Stop speaking negatively about your competition.  I speak with suppliers every week who love to tell me how much better
their company is by speaking negatively about their competition.  I know they have similar conversations
with their clients because I’ve been present for it many times.  My message to all of you doing this – just

Present your company’s
benefits as a representation of your company and the entire healthcare staffing industry.  Know that every
negative thing you say about a competitor is a negative mark against healthcare staffing as a whole.  Every industry has companies
that perform poorly and all poor performing companies will eventually go
away. Right now it’s critical that hospitals begin to have a positive impression of the industry as
a whole.  Help them adopt this
perception by removing negative talk about your competition and promoting the industry in a positive manner.

Don’t just talk bill rates.  The entire industry from the clients to the
suppliers is constantly focused on bill rates. 
Hospitals are always trying to pay less and suppliers and always working
toward raising their rates.  Of course price is important.  However, the conversation needs to shift toward discussing the benefits received for
these services and away from a focus on the numbers.  Hospitals need help realizing the value they receive for the prices they pay and suppliers
should focus on consistently providing more value – not just raising their bill
rates every 18 months.

Prepare your staff.  Last week I spoke with a hospital that called a traveler to speak with them about an upcoming assignment.  To their surprise, the traveler wasn’t aware the supplier had submitted her for the assignment.  The week before, another hospital was complaining to me that suppliers were sending them candidates that had not completed any of the pre-orientation materials (a requirement the hospital has of all staff) prior to working their first shift.

Most likely, being a temporary worker, your staff will face several obstacles during their first assignment.  The more you can educate and prepare them for the experience, the better that experience will be.  In addition to making things better for your employee, the hospital will appreciate your efforts and have a more favorable attitude toward working with your company.

Offer more services.  What else can you offer that’s of value to your clients?  Can you provide them with referrals to
other companies that will help them achieve their goals?  What about additional modalities of
staffing?  If you’re primarily
focused on Nursing consider assisting your clients with recruiting allied
health professionals or even non-clinical specialties. If you’re a local per diem company try placing local travelers on contract assignments.  Your clients will see
the value of your services increase as you begin to offer them additional services.

Communicate efficiently.  Still faxing documents and sending correspondence in the mail?  These outdated, manual processes are
time consuming and costly to both you and your clients.  Do whatever you can to make your interactions with your clients as efficient as possible.  For example:

  • Use email as much as possible.
  • Work out a contact schedule so you aren’t constantly contacting
    them or reaching them at times when they are busy or rushed.
  • Create a web presence that allows them to interact with you online
    either through your website, social networking site or micro-site.
  • Refer them to a healthcare vendor management company that can fully automate their processes or
    offer to provide VM services yourself.

Don’t steal staff.  Perhaps the fastest way to anger a hospital client is to steal their
staff.  There is a
severe shortage of healthcare professionals and recruiting staff is a difficult,
time consuming and costly effort. 
Recruiting staff directly from a hospital is the fastest way to hurt
your company’s reputation and contribute to the overall negative perception
hospitals have of healthcare staffing suppliers.

If a healthcare professional from one of your clients seeks you out you have the right to employ them just as the healthcare professional has
the right to change employers.  If this situation arises, communicate it with your client as quickly and as openly as
possible.  Be
sure they understand that you did not proactively recruit their staff so you
can stay in good standing.

Stop ghost booking.  Yes – you.  Every
healthcare staffing supplier I speak with claims they never ghost book.  Yet every
hospital I speak with claims this is one of the primary issues they have with
their healthcare staffing suppliers. 
Ghost booking is the practice of securing a job requisition by claiming
to have a candidate available (typically a specific candidate that has been
requested) when in fact that candidate is not available.  Suppliers do this to obtain the requisition so their competition doen’t get the request.  The supplier will then call the hospital at the last minute with a different healthcare professional or to cancel altogether if they can’t fill it.  Some suppliers will actually even send a different healthcare professional
to the assignment without informing the hospital.

This practice seems to occur most often in per diem staffing because
of the nature of last minute needs. 
The practice is dishonest and can end up costing the hospital a lot of
money due to cancellations or the need to put new staff through orientation.  It can also add liability to the
hospital if they have not properly screened the healthcare professional or if they end up
short staffed.  

Promote the industry.  The SIA survey results reflect an overall negative opinion of the
industry.  It’s not as if
the respondents said, “I don’t like using temporary healthcare staff…unless
it’s with company X.”  Overall the
entire industry is looked down upon by hospital clients.  In addition to improving your company’s offerings and reputation with
your clients, do your best to promote the healthcare staffing industry
as a whole.  Respect your
competition and work with your clients to help them see the value of using temporary
healthcare staff and as an all around positive experience. 

It’s critical that the negative impression hospitals have of healthcare staffing suppliers change.  The industry plays a vital role in this country’s healthcare system.  Improving the image of the industry will lead to better working relationships, improved staffing processes, more adequate staffing levels and better patient care.

I’m sure there are several other things we can all do to help promote the industry and help hospitals change their overall negative impression of the industry.  If you have any additional insights, please post them here.

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4 thoughts on “Improving the image of healthcare stafffing

  1. Great post, Jason. Couldn’t agree more with this information. There are a lot of great employees that work for staffing agencies, and they can really help the facilities. But without us working to understand the goals of our clients, it’s just a body. We’re here to support our clients, not the other way around. Thanks!

  2. Great article. In this hyper-competative environment we need to refocus our (full time staff and temp staff) efforts on providing great service to the hospitals we serve. Unfortunately it is going to take a long time to change the perception from a “necessary evil” to a trusted partner.

  3. Agreed David. It’s been an uphill battle for years. Lately, it seems as though it is getting worse- not better. My hope is that starting a conversation will help others think about it and proactively work on these issues.

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