Although the pandemic is over, its effects on the healthcare industry can still be felt to this day. For one thing, it changed how facilities approached staffing. Thanks to the nursing shortage, facilities were pushed towards forward-thinking, short-term solutions. Suddenly, they had to meet safe staffing levels without overspending on labor. To understand where the future of the industry may lie, we must look at how healthcare staffing changed, why alternative staffing solutions have gained so much traction, and what the future may hold for hospitals, long-term care centres, and other healthcare facilities.
How Did Covid Affect the Healthcare Industry?
During the pandemic, facilities ended up contending with volatile spikes in demand and patient counts. COVID-19 admissions steadily rose throughout this time, reaching an all-time peak in 2022 with the spread of the Omicron variant. In January 2022, hospitals were dealing with 145,982 COVID patient admissions. These residents accounted for 30% of all Intensive Care Unit beds.
This led to crowded facilities and overextended HCPs. Suddenly, they were dealing with unsafe patient-to-HCP staffing ratios and unsustainable workloads. These conditions made them susceptible to stress and overwork, which could eventually lead to burnout. Quality of care directly suffered, as tired HCPs were more susceptible to costly medical errors. Inevitably, turnover rates increased as a result. Studies have even shown that HCPs who worked for three months during the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to consider leaving the industry altogether.
Meanwhile, non-COVID patients were left in waiting rooms for a long time. While waiting, their conditions only worsened. Both staff and residents were suffering greatly, during the peak of the Coronavirus.
How Did Healthcare Facilities Respond?
Facilities obviously needed to return to safer staffing levels. They needed to bring in more HCPs to account for the higher patient counts. Unfortunately, simply bringing in more full-time healthcare workers was not an option, in most cases. Eventually, the COVID patient spikes would settle over time. There would still be COVID-related admissions, but the average daily patient counts would come down to where they used to be. In these situations, facilities would find themselves severely overstaffed. Their spending on compensation, training, and benefits would increase, yet they would find no material gain. Over a long enough period of time, this overstaffing would lead to financial issues and even potential bankruptcy. For those reasons, bringing in full-time staff all the time would be impractical.
For this reason, facilities ended up turning to flexible staffing solutions. This lets them bring additional HCPs as needed (or per diem), through temporary contracts. They could work with a facility for a set amount of time. It could be weeks or months, or it may only last the span of a single shift. Hospitals could account for sudden spikes inpatient admissions, estimate how long this rise in demand would last, and bring in temporary HCPs to work within that time. While they would have to orient HCPs to the systems and operations of a facility, they did not have to invest seriously in their training either. Temporary HCPs typically come with significant experience and are prepared to contribute to their facility almost instantly. Whether you need more registered nurses, doctors, physicians, or nurse aides, there are a host of temporary staffing services available to you.
What Staffing Options Are Available to Facilities?
Right now, there are two main flexible staffing solutions that facilities can make use of staffing agencies and staffing apps. The former is an established temporary staffing platform that was successful, even before the rise of COVID-19. Staffing agencies partner with HCPs, and work in conjunction with partnered facilities to find the most compatible fit. They usually secure months or weeks-long contracts for HCPs with facilities that need to fill in these short-term vacancies. Overall, this matching process can take weeks, with staffing agencies facilitating negotiations, settling documentation and so much more. To this day, they remain a reasonable outlet for facilities looking for trustworthy, and qualified HCPs who can contribute in the short term.
By comparison, staffing apps are a much newer development, but they are no less useful or reliable. Staffing apps allow HCPs to take up single shifts with their facilities of choice. They process all the documentation and credentialing in a much quicker manner, as a result. Apps like VitaWerks have risen in prominence, thanks to their convenience and ease of use. Compared to staffing agencies, facilities can find RNs, LVNs, CNAs, and more on short notice, and can match with them in a matter of minutes. If you need HCP contributions as soon as humanly possible, then staffing apps are a perfectly viable option.
How Has the Healthcare Staffing Industry Grown Over the Years?
The rise of COVID-19 brought alternative healthcare staffing solutions to prominence. Although the pandemic is finished, staffing continues to expand and grow in influence and profitability, over time. A 2022 market analysis report concluded that the staffing industry was valued at over $36.9 billion USD in that year. From 2023 to 2030, staffing is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 6.93 percent. The industry saw an increased demand for healthcare staffing that has not abated, ever since the start of the pandemic. Developments in technology and the various benefits of per diem employment have also been cited as major driving factors behind the industry’s growth.
How Do Hcps Benefit from Temporary Staffing?
Facilities are not the only entity that can benefit from a temporary staffing setup. Per diem HCPs get to enjoy unprecedented professional freedom, while they work with staffing agencies or through staffing apps. They can choose where they work, and when they work, without any input from their bosses or managers. As long as they complete their shifts and contracts, then they have full control over their careers. This allows them to discover what they want out of their HCP lives, by experimenting with different roles and experiments.
This also gives them invaluable work experience in a variety of different settings and environments, which always looks good in their resumes. Finally, there is even a monetary incentive. Because short-term staffing solutions are in high demand, this is reflected in per diem rates. This means that HCPs can earn as much, if not more than their full-time counterparts. Just keep in mind that because they are independent contractors, they need to do their own taxes as a result. This can be a major headache, and it is highly recommended that you seek the help of an accountant if you can.
A Bright Future
The staffing industry will only continue to grow. As the shortages continue, and different COVID variants develop, facilities will need short-term solutions now, more than ever. Staffing agencies and apps give them this flexibility while providing HCPs a sense of professional freedom they have never experienced. Instead of supplanting full-time HCPs, they assist them by lightening the load and keeping staffing ratios at safe, recommended levels. As time passes and technology evolves, the staffing industry will continue to innovate. In that time, companies like VitaWerks will keep finding new ways to make life better for facilities and HCPs alike.