'Work Your Way' offers full-time benefits, along with premium pay and flexibility.
A new mobile internal staffing model at Allegheny Health Network (AHN) will reduce the health system’s reliance on contracted agency nurses while providing their employees with a flexible work option.
Called Work Your Way, the new program is expected to attract nurses who permanently left the health system for travel work, new nurses, and current travel nurses, says AHN Chief Nurse Executive Claire Zangerle, DNP, RN, FAAN. It’s also open to surgical technologists and other team members.
Work Your Way is the latest effort by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based AHN to recruit and retain healthcare professionals amid severe labor shortages affecting the industry.
"The severe nursing shortage across the nation continues to affect all hospitals and health systems. Creating and executing innovative solutions helps us address the staffing challenge and at AHN we are doing just that," Zangerle says.
Zangerle’s previous staffing innovations have included a pilot program in 2021 placing licensed practical nurses (LPNs) on nursing teams and a time management course designed for nurse leaders to help them feel less overwhelmed about their day.
“Our new mobile internal staffing program is one of many solutions relative to the staffing challenges,” she says. “It's also an opportunity for nurses who are interested in joining AHN's community of nursing in a unique way with competitive wages, excellent benefits, and the flexibility of practice at different AHN hospitals.”
How it works
Mobile nurses work rotational shifts in emergency medicine, telemetry, critical care, and perioperative care at eight of AHN’s 14 hospitals. The positions offer premium pay as well as mileage reimbursement for those traveling more than 50 miles to work and lodging reimbursement for those traveling more than 75 miles to work.
Each assignment lasts for six weeks and can be renewed if mutually agreed upon by the nurse and AHN. However, if during a six-week assignment AHN has an urgent need at another of its hospitals, a nurse can be moved from the original assignment, Zangerle says.
That is unlike regular travel nurses who stay at the same position for the duration of their contract.
“We did not have the flexibility to move them,” Zangerle says. “But with this program, if I have a team that's idle because we had four surgeons out on vacation at one hospital, and I've got a full load of surgeries at another hospital and we haven't opened rooms because we don't have the teams, I can move those from the low-productivity hospital to the high-productivity hospital,” she says.
Pay rates are non-negotiable
AHN is beginning the program with 50 positions, but fully expects it to grow, Zangerle says.
Contract nurses have responded with much interest, many questions, and even more attempts to negotiate rates based on what agencies are paying, Zangerle says.
But pay rates, she says, are non-negotiable.
“We are not playing that game,” Zangerle says. “This is what it is. We feel that this is market reasonable and that any more we go up is not healthy for our staff who is not taking this opportunity.”
And while some market rates are going down, AHN's Work Your Way rates will remain steady, she says.
“Nurses are somewhat skeptical that these rates will change, but we're going to lock in on these rates for six months; we're going to reevaluate; and then we'll keep going from there, but we don't see these rates changing in the next year or 18 months,” she says.
Work Your Way has a limited number of positions open for AHN’s current nurses, Zangerle says.
“We had to limit that,” she says. “We can't cannibalize our current staff because the goal is to have net-net more nurses.”
Most of the health system’s current nurses are not interested because the mobile program is non-union, and they prefer to keep their union seniority and benefits, and they don’t have the required mobile experience, Zangerle says.
“This is for people who have mobile experience and who've done this before, because gig work is not easy,” she says. “That’s why you get paid the premium rate. To not have a permanent home is what we're paying these nurses for.”
“[The new mobile program is] an opportunity for nurses who are interested in joining AHN's community of nursing in a unique way with competitive wages, excellent benefits, and the flexibility of practice at different AHN hospitals.”
— Claire Zangerle, DNP, RN, FAAN, chief nurse executive, Allegheny Health Network
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.
Allegheny Health Network’s new internal mobile staffing model will, in part, reduce the health system’s reliance on contracted agency nurses.
The new program is expected to attract nurses who once permanently left the health system for travel work.
Pay rates are established and non-negotiable.