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Embracing and Enhancing Flexibility in the Modern Healthcare Workforce

Part 2 of 3

Today’s healthcare workforce is undergoing a transformative period with an unprecedented potential for flexibility as more healthcare professionals challenge traditional job roles and schedules.

The pandemic and digital transformation have amplified this shift, with healthcare talent seeking more personalized ways of working. “We need to reengage people with more flexibility and new opportunities to shape their work experiences,” says Steven Endsley, national vice president of strategic talent solutions for AMN Healthcare.

Endsley notes that organizations can manage their employees more efficiently and empower a more dynamic workforce with virtual care, remote, part-time, and gig work opportunities, thanks to advancing technologies such as telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive analytics. In part two of this three-part series, he delves into the importance of greater adaptability in the healthcare workforce and how providers can navigate this evolving landscape.

It is becoming increasingly clear that provider organizations must revamp traditional roles, tailor positions to individual needs, and continue to layer in contingent caregivers to support staff and patient needs as workforce needs evolve and new generations enter. To keep pace with the changing times, healthcare providers must proactively reimagine job responsibilities and potentially restructure job roles to accommodate the various macro factors at play. For instance, some nurses may not wish to work at the bedside but can still practice nursing in other areas, such as triage and virtual care roles.

Q: Where can we create new forms of flexibility for this workforce?

Endsley: An area being explored is leveraging a large number of nurses who are about to retire or those seeking part-time work assignments where they can self-schedule across multiple provider organizations as a PRN or 1099 to meet their work-life balance preferences, rather than working a full-time commitment to one single provider organization. Additionally, virtual work options are on the rise, providing more flexibility, and there are emerging opportunities for primary and preventive care roles in retail settings. Industry giants such as Amazon and Walgreens are already setting a precedent with flexible day-shift jobs. Furthermore, gig work is an expanding field of interest, and advanced platforms like AMN’s Passport app enable individuals to pick up contract opportunities and part-time work shift-based work or search new full-time jobs, giving them the freedom to choose how much they work and in what level of engagement they want to work with a single or multiple provider organizations.

QWhat infrastructure is necessary for health systems to adapt to the dynamic nature of the modern, flexible workforce?

Endsley: When adapting to a more flexible workforce, providers need a center of excellence that connects the four spokes of the Quadruple Aim. This center should enable health systems to collect, analyze, and act on key organizational decisions, resulting in more effective workforce management. Access to data, analysis, and knowledge supported by AI and machine learning technologies is also critical for greater workforce flexibility. Ultimately, the shift from siloed to strategic workforce decision-making requires a center of excellence driven by data analytics. Data-driven decision-making is a primary goal for AMN as we collaborate with our provider partners to introduce flexibility into the future workforce through a multi-channel approach to support the delivery of care: full-time staff, internal float pools, international clinicians, gig workers, internal agencies, virtual care, and external agency. Better integration of these workforce areas is necessary to drive efficiency and meet budget goals consistently.

QHow can we retain quality care while embracing a more flexible workforce?

Endsley: It is crucial to prioritize quality as workforce flexibility increases. While some worry that the growing flexible labor pool is a risk to patient care continuity, our experience suggests it is possible to maintain high-quality patient care while introducing more flexibility to the workforce. Advanced technology tools, real-time patient care data, strategic care handoffs, and training can achieve this. One comprehensive study of travel nurses and staff nurses at five hospitals over three years found that patient care quality and experience remained consistent between the two groups. It is important to acknowledge that our workforce structure is changing, and we must embrace this. Forcing a traditional structure on staff may result in more people leaving the profession and unsafe staffing ratios. We can ensure that care quality remains high by prioritizing a happier and more engaged workforce with a more flexible work-life balance.

Part three of our Q+A series uncovers strategies and tactics for building a stronger relationship based on trust and transparency between healthcare systems and workforce service providers. Revisit Part 1 here.

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