A seismic shift in the way people work and what they value in the workplace is underway, and the healthcare industry is not immune, says Susan Pasley, MS, BSN, RN, VP of clinical solutions at CareRev.
“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the spread of the gig economy into the caregiver workforce, and it’s here to stay,” she says. Below, Pasley explores the gig economy's impact on hospitals and health systems and why these new professionals are essential to future staffing models. She also discusses the importance of having an integrated technology platform that seamlessly connects with credentialed, experienced professionals from their local communities while also painting a comprehensive picture of a health system’s needs at any given time.
Q: Has the gig economy reached the healthcare industry?
Pasley: Yes. Just like everybody else, nurses want and sometimes need another source of income that works well in their schedules. At CareRev—a Joint Commission-certified technology platform that connects hospitals and health systems to on-demand or per diem, local, flexible talent pools—we saw exponential growth during the peak of the pandemic and continue to see that type of growth today. About 64% of the nurses and other allied health professionals who work through our technology platform are employed full-time or part-time elsewhere but also use CareRev to augment their primary job. The gig economy allows them to supplement their main income while doing something they are passionate about. It's a big win for health systems and patients because it will enable caregivers to take advantage of the gig economy within their own industry instead of seeking opportunities elsewhere.
Q: What is the biggest impact a gig economy approach can have on the healthcare staffing crisis, specifically in regard nurses?
Pasley: During the pandemic, the mass exodus of nurses from the profession—due to stress, burnout, and lack of work-life balance—was unlike anything we've experienced. It has been a real gamechanger for health systems. As we approach the endemic phase of the pandemic, the gig economy offers alternative, flexible options to retain nurses in the profession while eliminating budget-draining travel contracts. Other dynamics are also changing the nursing world and how we think about career paths, workforce planning, and development strategies. For example, younger professionals are demanding workplace cultural changes such as more time to focus on their personal life and priorities. There is a pattern of younger nurses who want to cycle on and off of work every few months while others seek to work more hours to achieve financial independence and early retirement. The gig economy allows nurses to work where they want when they want. Without the healthcare gig economy, we risk losing more nurses to more flexible industries and professions.
Q: Can independent contract workers and full-time workers offer healthcare systems a sustainable workforce?
Pasley: Yes. Building a sustainable workforce in the future will require a combination of independent contract and traditionally employed workers to succeed. While traditional staffing models will continue to be the primary way hospitals and health systems fill most of their needs in the foreseeable future, there isn’t enough nursing supply given the aging population to meet demands today or tomorrow. Health systems that want to attract and retain talented nurses must embrace an on-demand, flexible gig economy to augment traditional models.
Q: How can this gig workforce ensure high quality and continuity of care?
Pasley: We get this question from virtually every hospital chief nursing officer with whom we work. First, it’s essential to leverage local nurses who are invested in the local community and have a good understanding of the patient population to ensure greater continuity of care and culturally competent care. It’s also clear that the gig economy is not a place for new grads. At CareRev, all of our caregivers have a minimum one-year of experience in the last 12 months in their specialty before being considered for inclusion on the platform. With a rigorous process that focuses on hiring experienced nurses, quality can be just as good as what your employed nurses provide.
Q: What solutions will be necessary to transform traditional healthcare operations to support the future workforce?
Pasley: Health systems are overhauling their end-to-end approach to staffing to stay competitive in this new world order. In many cases, they are changing care models, including creating internal staffing agencies and new float pool approaches. Technology is the key to making these major operational changes. Healthcare organizations will increasingly require integrated staffing decision support models to maximize staff across all systems and control spending. CareRev is leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning, and proprietary data to build the next generation of predictive scheduling models and automate tasks aimed at managing the entire labor pool. We want to ensure that staff are utilized per their training and skill sets and in the areas of highest need and acuity.