Post-pandemic health care staffing: Effective involvement of travel and temporary nurses | Tech US News


Travel nurses first began appearing in the United States in the late 1970s and offered a novel solution to understaffed hospitals in regions where there was a temporary but high demand for health care workers. Recruiting nurses for short-term roles presented a cost-effective way of dealing with staff shortages. For nurses, it was a route to more experience and higher wages. Travel nursing grew in demand during the 1980s and remains an especially vital part of the healthcare system to this day, especially since the onset of Covid-19.

Before the pandemic, staffing agencies were often seen as an efficient and flexible way to fill temporary gaps in staffing needs. Travel nursing grew in popularity as Covid-19 progressed, with nurses seeking more flexibility in their work, the ability to work in new locations or different specialties, and sometimes significantly higher pay. Many were open to temporary assignments that required relocation, as their spouses suddenly worked from home and their children received their education virtually. Healthcare organizations were seeking staff as they tried to anticipate care needs in a suddenly unpredictable world, and staffing agencies were able to provide a much-needed level of stability and certainty.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a sudden transition to working from home (or anywhere with internet access), employees around the world have experienced new flexibility in their work. While healthcare workers typically cannot perform their jobs remotely, nursing professionals have sought to take advantage of their flexibility through staffing agencies that provide the opportunity to work in a different city or state, try a different specialty, or even experience a new organization in his hometown. . Travel nurses were able to have more control over the type of shifts they wanted to work and where they would go. Many liked to take short-term positions in hospitals that allowed them to work as many shifts as possible, followed by a month or two off between assignments. By working in different departments or being able to travel to new places on a whim, employees have expanded their social network and enjoyed new experiences, all enabled by their workplace.

However, as the novelty and unpredictability of the pandemic have subsided, many now fear that agency staff may be a detriment to patient care. If a department has too many agency staff, there can be a lack of knowledge about the organization and its policies or procedures, and the culture of the organization can be diluted. Something as simple as not knowing where items are stored can take away precious time that should be spent on patient care. Hospitals with already tight operating margins struggle to provide affordable, quality patient care when forced to rely so heavily on agency staff.

There is a balance to be struck between ensuring that hospitals are adequately staffed and ensuring that hospitals are employing the appropriate staff. By early 2022, the average salary for contract nurses was more than three times the cost of employed nurses, according to a Kaufman Hall study. Additionally, the use of contract labor more than doubled from pre-pandemic findings. While many expenses for healthcare organizations have increased in recent years, labor costs have increased at a greater rate than others. On average, work as a percentage of adjusted discharge spending increased from 46% in 2019 to 49% in 2022. In fact, travel nursing, or agency nursing, has become so popular in the past two years that the American Hospital Association sent a statement to the US Senate in early 2022 called on the government to intervene in the health worker shortage, listing nurse staffing agencies or contract work as a component of staff shortages and high labor costs.

Apparently, due to the increased popularity and high cost of contract work, many large healthcare organizations have now created their own in-house staffing agencies. To successfully implement a travel agency or in-house staff that can span multiple cities or states, organizations need the technology and data available to support this effort. Having visibility into the staffing needs of an entire organization is important to ensure staff are deployed as efficiently as possible. Once staff arrive at their new, often temporary, location, they will likely need some training and education to ensure they are fully equipped to provide optimal patient care. On-demand, low-leverage microlearning activities can help an employee feel secure in their job and provide an opportunity to learn at their own pace and when needed. Adding QR codes to equipment that can vary from location to location and automatically launching training courses can help an employee be productive on day one and feel supported in their new role.

As the healthcare industry continues to experience a labor shortage that is expected to worsen, it is important to use technology to support operations and continually innovate new ways of working. By giving employees choices about where, when and how they work, many of the top reasons why employees leave their jobs can be addressed. Given that employees today are looking for different types of flexibility in their working conditions, in-house travel agencies can be an excellent answer to retaining current staff and attracting new talent.


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