• As wages, benefits, and non-labor costs for permanent registered nurses (RNs) trend upward, hospitals should reassess their approach to temporary nurse staffing.

    Many hospitals use temporary nurses to some extent. Indeed, two-thirds of hospital executives participating in a recent study reported using travel or per diem nurses, according to KPMG's 2011 Hospital Nursing Labor Costs Study, which was commissioned by the National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations (NATHO). 

    However, typically as little as 3 percent of hospital nurse staffing is temporary, says Mark Stagen, NATHO founder and CEO of Emerald Health Services, a staffing firm based in Marina del Rey, California. 

    "Healthcare does not incorporate the idea of temporary labor into their business model as aggressively as other industries do," Stagen says. He suggests that it makes sense for hospitals, as seasonal, census-driven organizations, to reassess the untapped potential offered by temporary nurse staffing. 

    Impact on Quality

    In the past, concerns about quality of patient care led many hospitals to be wary of temporary nurse staffing, on the premise that nurses who are less familiar with a hospital's or unit's practices and procedures could inadvertently contribute to an increase in the rate of adverse events, such as patient falls or medication errors.

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