From flexible scheduling and virtual nursing to strategic workforce partnerships, how health systems are saying goodbye to staffing models of the past
Healthcare organizations are increasingly adopting holistic workforce models and partnerships to proactively respond to changing needs posed by the nursing shortage, a multigenerational workforce, and the growing emphasis on mental health. According to Patti Artley, DNP, RN, CPN, NEA-BC, CNO of Medical Solutions, “The old way of doing things is no longer feasible. Success requires a deep understanding of our staff at a micro level and the strategic application of flexible scheduling and staffing resources. We must also work harder to build cultures that take care of the well-being of individuals,” she says. Here, Artley shares insights into how organizations can prepare for the future through workforce partnership, staffing, culture, and technology innovations.
Q: What should organizations seek in a workforce partnership?
Artley: Hospitals and health systems must strongly consider what comprises a true partnership. Workforce partnerships have moved beyond filling requests for travelers. While travelers are important in meeting recruiting requirements, one of the most significant opportunities lies in collaborating with a company that can help decrease your dependency on contingent labor. They should provide guidance in critical areas such as flexible scheduling, crisis staffing, mental health, culture, and technology.
Q: What strategies can organizations use to meet all their current and future workforce needs?
Artley: A significant barrier for organizations is trying to accomplish many different goals. It’s most important to understand the challenges in front of them, which is the growing nursing shortage for many. By 2030, the nurse workforce is projected to experience a deficit of 1.2 million registered nurses nationwide, with 4.7 million nurses planning to retire in the next decade. Additionally, programs deny admissions to 80,000 qualified nursing students each year. Assessing the impact of these trends on your organization, region, and state is essential.
Health systems must also move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to workforce management, think creatively, and develop effective staffing plans that cater to the unique needs of their staff. Understanding their staff’s diverse professional and personal needs is crucial, especially for the younger generations. For example, Millennials and Gen Zs desire to stay with organizations that will help them grow professionally and enable them to practice at the top of their license. Mentorship and guidance in areas such as clinical ladders are key for their career development and long-term retention. Residency programs for new graduates are also vital for a successful transition to nursing practice.
Organizations should also prioritize flexible scheduling to retain nurses who can’t or don’t wish to work 12-hour shifts, including retiring individuals, parents with schooling challenges, and those coming off maternity leave. Empowering frontline managers with a manageable span of control is equally essential for success. A holistic workforce solutions partner will help you address all of these factors. Those organizations more willing to try new models and tactics and who are unafraid of failure are more likely to close the nursing gap.
Q: What creative staffing models are emerging, and what should organizations consider?
Artley: The more innovative staffing models integrate flexibility to retain existing staff. For example, some organizations leverage the volume of PRN staff during slower periods and while experiencing their largest churn. This approach allows a hospital to build in breaks and lunch coverage. It also enables them to hire nurses who can only work shorter shifts while offering Millennials, for example, the flexibility to pick up extra hours when they want. The result is less reliance on traditional 12-hour shifts for coverage.
Additionally, providers continue to implement a range of flexible solutions, including internal and external float pools that deploy resources to where they are needed most to support nurses and address their team’s mental and physical exhaustion. We have also seen an increase in international staffing. These highly skilled nurses are loyal to the hiring organization and can help fill gaps or balance staffing pools with experienced nurses, especially in regions with high graduate nurses. Additionally, Code Lavender provides crisis intervention to nurses during stressful situations.
Technology is critical in supporting new staffing models, creating efficiencies such as reducing documentation, and enabling virtual nurse platforms. We see virtual nurses as an integral part of clinical teams moving forward. Virtual nurse roles range from discharge nurses to resource nurses for recent graduates. We also predict an explosion in AI and robotics for delivering care, medications, and supplies. These technologies will allow people to get back to caring for patients.
Q: How can healthcare organizations build staffing pipelines beyond recruitment and travelers?
Artley: A holistic approach to workforce management is needed, prioritizing retention as the most critical factor in stabilizing the workforce. The game-changers have figured out how to decrease turnover while adding on and layering into the workforce, making it a net add versus a constant churn. Assessing and determining staff needs in the individual work area is also crucial as a culture is defined in that microsystem. And when we reward and recognize our teams meaningfully while addressing burnout, that helps keep them there. I don’t think you can say “thank you” enough.
Patti Artley, DNP, RN, CPN, NEA-BC
Chief Nursing Officer
Medical Solutions places quality nurses, allied health professionals, and interim clinical leaders in contingent, permanent, local, and per diem positions.