Solving Healthcare Staffing Challenges over the Holidays

Holiday StaffingThe holiday season brings a convergence of workforce issues for hospitals, clinics, practices and other healthcare facilities. First, almost everybody wants to take time off – including nurses, allied health professionals and other healthcare workers. People want to spend holidays with families – often at a distance from where they work. Many younger nurses just want to have time off to spend with their children, while they are off of school.

At the same time, potential patients may be flocking to the southern United States to avoid cold weather, increasing demand for services and the need for skilled staff. There also may be a rise in injuries due to winter weather in the North and East, and the beginning of flu season and the onset of other weather-related respiratory ailments. Other patients just want to squeeze in as many elective procedures as possible now that they have met their annual insurance deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses.

Demand Grows this Winter

How can healthcare providers ensure they have the staffing in place to deliver optimal patient care during the holiday season? Seasonal staffing challenges maybe more acute this year than in the past because of growing demand for healthcare services and increasing shortages of healthcare professionals.

“What we see going into the winter is a significant increase in workforce needs because of a high demand,” said Becky L. Kahn, senior vice president in Strategic Account Management
at AMN Healthcare in San Diego, California. She said that many hospitals began calling the healthcare staffing and workforce solutions company for coverage earlier this year than in the past.

Hospitals and health systems employ a number of strategies to address the shortages. Some will limit time off. While that might work, it likely will lead to a disgruntled workforce. Others will have staff nurses and allied professionals work overtime. Numerous studies have shown that excessive overtime can lead to staff member burnout and poorer patient outcomes. Still other hospitals may offer incentive pay as an enticement, but that can add expense to the problems related to overwork.

Temporary Staffing Solutions

Many hospitals utilize temporary staff during the holiday season. For short-term solutions, perhaps to cover the Thanksgiving weekend or the Christmas and New Year’s weekends, NurseFinders can place skilled and qualified nurses in the open shifts. It also can often find a last-minute replacement for the nurse who calls off during the holiday season.

For those facilities planning ahead with longer-term vacancies, American Mobile, NursesRx or other companies can supply travelers for three-month or longer nursing assignments, while Club Staffing and MedTravelers do the same for allied professional openings. Filling holiday schedules with travelers offers the additional bonus of staffing with nurses and allied professionals who want to work the holidays. Often, they are alone in a new community and find it rewarding to be with other healthcare team members and patients during the holidays.

Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities that want to avoid that annual worry about holiday staffing have turned to managed service programs, or MSP. An MSP from AMN Healthcare can handle all staffing management while offering the advantage of a national search and the healthcare industry’s largest database of professionals. By itself, a hospital or other facility often can only reach out to nurses and allied professionals in the local community, while AMN connections extend across the country. And many clinicians in northern regions look forward to assignments in warmer areas during the winter.

Accurate Forecasting Now Available

With managed services, AMN assumes responsibility for contingency staffing, including credentialing and most other management tasks. Additionally, Avantas, an AMN company, provides accurate forecasting services that accurately predict staffing needs. Gathering a wide range of data and running it through a series of algorithms, Avantas can predict 30 days out with 97% accuracy how many nurses are needed and their required skills. Not only does that mean organizations are well staffed, they also can save 4% to 7% of their human resources budgets.

“Avantas and our other workforce solutions can help organizations with planning and ensuring they have the right mix of staff to deliver care year round, even during the hectic holidays,” Kahn said.