The pandemic brought unprecedented workforce challenges for health systems around the country.
“Whatever staffing models organizations had prior to the pandemic went out the window,” says Ngo. Open positions for nurses and allied professionals that were normally filled in 30 to 45 days needed to be filled within seven days to accommodate the surge in patients and staffing shortages. These pressures exposed weaknesses in some staffing models, and the strengths of others. Ngo discusses which strategies paid off during the pandemic as well as staffing practices that, likely, will continue to pay dividends in the future.
How have recruitment strategies been impacted due to the pandemic?
Patient surges were seen throughout the pandemic in various hospital units across the country.
We needed to respond accordingly by quickly sourcing, credentialing and onboarding clinicians while making sure to follow hospital-specific protocols and other certification, licensure, and training needs for the job. Technology played a key role in streamlining operations to create a frictionless, automated process for both our health system clients and traveling-clinicians. Our sophisticated AI-driven lead management process helps us match interested candidates to the right job. Technology helped us optimize our interactions with prospective candidates, automate an otherwise manual process, and secure better matches in less time. To ensure our clients get the best travelers, our internal quality team, staffed with seasoned clinicians, vets candidates by conducting behavioral interviews and culture fit assessments. Our goal is to match the right job to the right candidate, at the right place, time and price.
How have retention strategies changed because of COVID-19?
We have an industry-leading retention rate that continues to increase because of our deep relationships with our travelers. Our career consultants engage with our travelers on an ongoing basis by phone, email and texts. Open communication allows us to quickly identify potential issues that might arise during their assignment.
When recruiting, organizations should focus on culture, technical skills and experience, and credentialing. We spend a lot of time on culture fit to make sure that the job is a great experience for everyone.
Because of our longstanding relationships with many of our clients, we have an insider’s perspective and understanding of the culture at individual organizations. We convey these insights to potential candidates to make sure they have the right expectations. It also allows us to verify that each candidate is compatible with the organization and its staff. We also understand the importance of location. If you don’t like the location, you’ll likely be unhappy, even if the job is a great fit professionally.
The nursing landscape was tricky even before COVID-19 hit; what strategies would bring nurse staffing to healthy levels?
In addition to workforce solutions on the traveler side, there are other components to consider, including the permanent staff, float pool, per diem, and contingent workers. Without a complete view and understanding of all of these components, it’s difficult to accurately forecast staffing needs. Our predictive staffing model can forecast staffing needs 90-days out and more—which allows us to get a head start on difficult-to-place jobs.
Completion rate is also critically important because if a traveler doesn’t complete his or her assignment due to a poor fit, it can be highly disruptive to the organization. We lead the industry when it comes to our completion rates for our travelers’ assignments.
What staffing models can help with cost management and budgeting as health systems begin to rebound from 2020’s unprecedented financial challenges?
Health systems need a staffing model that is proactive and flexible and one that can understand and address the individual needs of each health system as it evolves. They also need technology solutions and services to help them get ahead of the curve, especially when it comes to labor spending, which is the highest cost category for a health system’s operating budget. Organizations benefit from knowing how labor costs are distributed across each facility in their system and having the ability to drill down to a particular region, hospital, and even the individual unit. This requires an understanding of historical trends and the ability to predict future staffing shortages, which is why a strategic workforce solutions partner can provide immense value. With enterprise visibility to labor spend across different modalities, our clients can be more strategic in how they plan for their staffing challenges as the severe supply-demand imbalance continues for the foreseeable future.
However, while technology can optimize processes, streamline operations, and point you in the right direction when it comes to staffing, organizations should keep the human element front and center. Having a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s culture and candidate preferences can help to ensure the right match. Ultimately, a successful staffing model achieves this balance by augmenting the human experience with technology-enabled services offering actionable insights to meet the needs of the organization and help them navigate these challenging times.