Last Updated on September 28, 2023
Healthcare workforce management has become more complex than ever before. And, while contingency staffing has emerged as an effective way to help get that job done, it also takes expertise to implement successfully. With that in mind, here are a few top contingency planning strategies that every healthcare organization should adopt.
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What Are the Benefits of Successful Contingency Planning?
A method of supporting regular staff with a pool of auxiliary workers, contingency staffing gives employers fast access to per diem, temp and travel nurses and allied clinicians. Skilled, trained and requiring little onboarding, contingency workers are an effective way to quickly scale up a workforce. They help employers handle a sudden influx of patients without the need to expand full-time staff.
Moreover, the ability to smoothly handle surges in utilization also helps ensure patient safety and regulatory compliance. And a successful contingency staffing plan can also help employers better accommodate normal fluctuations, too, like surges associated with the holidays or flu season. It can also prevent overstaffing during slower times.
Like any resource, however, these workers are only as effective as the expertise and strategy with which they’re used. For that reason, most employers rely on third-party assistance for their contingency planning strategies. In addition to providing workers, a healthcare workforce solutions partner can help establish an effective strategy for using them.
But with so many companies offering contingency staffing services, how can leaders make sure they’re choosing a trustworthy partner? To begin with, every staffing partner should be able to meet these five essential elements when creating a contingency planning strategy.
Checklist: 5 Essential Factors to a Successful Contingency Planning Strategy
Contingency Planning Essential #1: Crisis Management
A key workforce tool for decades, the use of contingency staffing surged during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, many organizations now use temp and travel workers as part of their standard workforce lineup. But their most important role is still making sure each facility is fully prepared with backup workers in the event of a crisis or disaster.
The goal of any disaster plan is to minimize loss and ensure the maintenance of critical operations during a crisis, whether it’s a pandemic, a natural disaster like a fire, flood or hurricane, or even a cyberattack. A staffing partner should be able to provide specific guidelines for the use of contingency workers in such an event.
> Action item: Employers should make sure that each of their facilities hits all the marks on this disaster preparation checklist.
Contingency Planning Essential #2: Operational Considerations
A contingency staffing plan should also include guidance for maintaining operations during non-crisis events. Unpredictable fluctuations can occur any time, even without a crisis fueling them. A contingency plan, therefore, must specify how to leverage temp workers to avoid pausing admissions, closing units or departments, transferring patients to other facilities, or having to make painful resource allocations.
Yes, sometimes these steps are necessary to balance workloads. But an effective contingency staffing plan should still seek to minimize them. It can do so by not only providing a plan for backup workers, but also helping strategize operational necessities. These include everything from adjusting scheduling to re-assigning certain workers in a way that maximizes efficiency.
> Action item: Employers should make sure that their contingency staffing partners can fulfill the necessary steps to a successful change management plan.
Contingency Planning Essential #3: Documentation & Risk Protection
Any contingency partner should be able to provide auxiliary staff in a way that protects an employer against risk. This includes providing appropriate classification for contingency workers, employer-of-record documentation, and adherence to all applicable diversity and inclusion laws.
This step also includes guidance on documenting this information and submitting it to the appropriate regulatory authorities. Agencies like the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) often require such documentation, as will local and state-level authorities. It’s important to make sure a contingency staffing partner understands these requirements and can proactively meet them.
> Action item: Review the HHS’ Medical Record Documentation Compliance Fact Sheet.
Contingency Planning Essential #4: Ensuring Communication
It’s also important to keep permanent staff informed about contingency planning. Whether or not they’re directly affected, key workers should be notified of any transitions via whatever mechanisms an organization has in place for staff communication, whether it’s email, group text, or software used to provide mass notifications. This messaging must include their role in the contingency plan, how they’re affected, and how they’ll be expected to react.
For that matter, employers should inform permanent staff on the possible use of contingency planning ahead of time. Doing so helps them understand the importance of the contingency plan. It also helps ensure they’re not caught off guard, but ready to adapt to new situations.
> Action item: For best results, integrate contingency planning information into your facility’s plan for ongoing professional development.
Contingency Planning Essential #5: Technology Considerations
A contingency staffing provider should have the ability to adapt to an employer’s existing technological infrastructure, whatever that may be. That means finding a partner that offers technology-neutral systems, and who’s experienced in adapting a variety of workforce processes.
In addition, employers should partner with a contingency staffing provider that can not only adapt to their technology, but also help them upgrade their IT infrastructure to meet today’s standards. The rising use of remote monitoring systems, advanced EHR systems, and other tech-focused solutions means that being familiar with the latest technology isn’t just useful but a necessity.
Trust CareerStaff with Your Contingency Planning Needs
When it comes to contingency planning, it’s important to remember that there’s no single magic formula or standard template. Each facility will have its own unique combination of challenges based on patient population, local resources, and other factors. So, it’s important to choose a partner with the resources and expertise to meet your specific contingency planning needs.
At CareerStaff, we’re proud to specialize in doing just that. From nationwide clinical staffing to strategic workforce management services, we’re here to help employers navigate today’s workforce challenges with award-winning, Joint Commission-Certified services. Learn more about our solutions, or get started by requesting contingency staff today.