Why Health Facilities Need a Nimbler Approach to Acute Care Nurse Staffing

Last Updated on November 30, 2021

Medical equipment in an acute care facility

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on virtually every aspect of healthcare delivery — and especially on acute care settings like critical care and intensive care units. These essential departments were often the most intensely impacted, as illustrated by California’s decision to relax its strict patient-to-nurse ratio in acknowledgement of the difficulty of keeping pace.

Now that the worst of the pandemic is likely over, there’s an urgent need to re-think the healthcare workforce model used in acute care settings. The leaders at CareerStaff encourage hospitals and other facilities to consider a nimbler acute care nurse staffing model — one that takes advantage of new innovations in workforce management like contingency staffing. Here are a few reasons why a nimbler approach can directly benefit your hospital or healthcare facility.

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5 Benefits of Adopting a Nimbler Acute Care Nurse Staffing Model

#1: Give Some Much-Needed Flexibility to Your Acute Care Workforce Strategy.

One of the most painful lessons of the recent pandemic was the need for greater flexibility in any staffing plan — especially acute and intensive care. During the most intense periods of 2020, intensive care units were continuously forced to choose between overworked staff or under-served patients.

“No one wants to have our staff emotionally and physically exhausted,” as California Hospital Association spokeswoman Jan Emerson-Shea said during the winter spike. “But we have no choice. People need care.”

Avoiding these painful choices in the future means building some flexibility into your critical and acute care staffing models. After all, the challenges facing these departments aren’t stagnant, so your strategy shouldn’t be, either.

#2: Take advantage of Contingency Staff Like Per Diem and Travel Nurses.

When it comes to giving your facility the flexibility to handle future demand, the most sensible place to start is with contingency workers like per diem nurses and travel nurses and clinicians. Companies like CareerStaff offer employers the chance to utilize these essential workers when the local labor force isn’t able to meet demand — or when more specialized workers are needed.

The CDC has even officially recommended the use of contingency staffing strategies to cope with shortages in the workforce caused by Covid-19, among other challenges. “When staffing shortages are anticipated, healthcare facilities and employers, in collaboration with human resources and occupational health services, should use contingency capacity strategies to plan and prepare for mitigating this problem,” as the CDC noted in its updated policy guidance earlier this year.

Contingency staffing includes a variety of methods to supplement your core staff with the resources to meet surges in demand both expected and unexpected, often centering on the use of travel and temp workers. Some predict that staffing models will include a much greater amount of temporary workers in the years to come.

“Hospitals would have a smaller number of permanent employees and a larger number of temporary contingent workers,” as StubHub founder Jeff Fluhr wrote at TechCrunch. “When demand drops, hospitals would use fewer contingent clinicians. When demand rises, they could tap into the marketplace to bring on more capacity.”

#3: Get Access to a Larger Pool of Nurses and Clinicians.

Partnering with a contingency staffing or healthcare workforce solutions company gives you access to a greater pool of candidates that literally spans the continent. At CareerStaff, our presence in dozens of locations across the United States helps to ensure that we’ve got every region covered. It also means that we can access a much larger pool of candidates at any given time than may be available in your local labor market.

#4: Help Preserve and Protect the Well-Being of Your Core Staff.

Although the worst of the pandemic may have subsided in most areas, the mental health and well-being of nurses is still very much at risk. Those who worked in critical care and intensive care units over the past couple of years have dealt with enormous challenges, and often did so with much less personal time.

Last year, a number of experts warned that burnout and compassion fatigue were reaching dangerous new heights during the pandemic. This can take a serious toll on any facility, contributing to missed shifts, a higher rate of attrition and more difficulty achieving optimal nurse-to-patient ratio.

By building out your critical and acute care staffing model with contingency workers, you can give your core staff more time off when they need it. This helps stave off burnout among your most important workers, while also ensuring that your patient care goals continue to be met.

> Related: Here are 7 ways to deal with burnout and compassion fatigue among your nursing staff

#5: Make Sure You’re Ready for the Next Crisis.

While there’s probably no one way to be fully prepared for a crisis, there are safeguards you put in place to help make sure you’re as ready as possible. Partnering with a healthcare workforce solutions provider like CareerStaff can give you access to a huge pool of workers across the country and spanning virtually every specialty — including nurses and respiratory therapists who are highly skilled and experienced in critical care settings.

On top of that, our team of recruiters understands the needs of today’s hospitals and healthcare providers, and can help make sure that the right professionals are deployed when and where they’re needed. And our managed services program helps build out that expertise with solutions to help you manage every part of your acute care nurse staffing model, from hiring and onboarding to scheduling and building. Get more details on how our MSP services can help your facility here.

Seeking Acute Care Nurse Staffing Solutions? We Can Help!

If it’s time to rethink your acute care nurse staffing strategy, we can help! As one of the nation’s leading nurse staffing and recruitment providers, we’re standing by to help make sure your facility is prepared to provide the best possible patient care. Learn more by contacting us today for a free consultation.

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