How do facilities overcome a low patient census?
Managing a healthcare facility is no small task, to say the least. Patient demand and workloads are fluid and can be subject to change, on a day-to-day basis. One day a facility is overworked and understaffed, and the next they have to wrestle with a low patient census. What exactly is a low patient census, however, and why is it such a bad thing? What can facilities do when presented with such a problem? This article will answer all these questions and more, to ensure efficient and effective operations for healthcare facilities across the country.
What is a low patient census?
In healthcare, the patient census is extremely fluid. How many patients you have admitted at a given time can depend on a number of factors, from earlier-than-expected discharges decreasing that census, to a global pandemic increasing it to unprecedented levels. When a healthcare facility faces a low census, they have less patients than expected at a given shift or work week. This leaves the facility with a higher nurse-to-staff ratio, skewed towards nurses. Put simply, a facility has more workers than they actually need, because of an unforeseen drop in demand at a given day.
What can be done to address a low census?
What can a facility do in these instances? Impulsively canceling shifts and sending HCPs home may result in understaffing later in the day. At the same time, you do not want to keep nurse staffing levels skewed high or low. Proper staffing levels have direct links to improved and safer patient outcomes. Instead of acing out of impulse, facilities must act responsibly and find alternative solutions to a low patient census.
Utilize alternative staffing solutions
Keeping your workforce flexible is the key to adapting to the current healthcare landscape. Facilities can bring in temporary HCPs when needed. Leaving room for flexibility, where you can add and remove per diem HCPs, allows your facility to be resilient in the case of both a low patient census, as well as a high one. Partnering with VitaWerks allows you to enlist the best HCPs as soon as possible, in a matter of hours. Through our AI-matchmaking and optimized healthcare marketplace, you will find what you need in staffing whenever you need it. Sign up with VitaWerks now, and enjoy a level of staffing efficiency that you never thought possible.
Allow facility staff some time to themselves
Promoting wellness is different from just sending your facility staff home, without a word. Take this opportunity to allow facility members to go home and take time for themselves, should they wish to do so. This shows your facility that you are invested in their wellbeing and happiness. If you have the resources and desire to do so, you can even cover for their leave with paid time off that does not count for the year. This increases good will, and allows them to use their PTO for more important matters in the future. If you end up getting understaffed later in the day or week, you can bring in temporary staff to make up for the deficit.
Create consistent policy
You do not want you or your staff to feel lost in the dark, whenever a low census happens. There has to be a developed and consistent policy, with regards to what takes place in such as situation. Who gets called off first, between all the temporary nurses? Do you have contracts where temporary HCPs have “guaranteed hours” regardless of any other circumstance? As long as your policy conforms with state and national regulations, you should be good.