How to Meet Patient Demand for Nurses During a Pandemic

Last Updated on December 3, 2021

ER healthcare nurses taking care of acute care patient

When it comes to meeting demand for nurses and clinicians in general, healthcare in the U.S. has always faced major challenges. And now that this demand has been intensified by the emergence of a global pandemic that’s unlike anything we’ve seen in a century. Entirely new challenges beyond basic supply and demand have suddenly come into play.

Though unprecedented in scope, the COVID-19 crisis is, basically, a natural disaster writ large. Instead of affecting one or several regions — giving surrounding areas the chance to help — the coronavirus pandemic is hitting almost every country. And it’s doing so with surprising ferocity, making it more and more difficult for many facilities to meet their responsibility to patient care.

And, although the effects of such disasters vary based on type, location, and a thousand other details, there are a few emerging priorities: A shortage of hospital beds and equipment, a shortage of professionals to treat patients, and protecting healthcare workers.

Emergency Declaration from CMS Changes Reimbursement Rules

These are serious problems, even if easily identified. To help alleviate them as quickly and efficiently as possible during a time of crisis, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a vast set of emergency rules on March 31, 2020 to “apply immediately across the entire U.S. healthcare system.”

To help meet the shortage of beds, the new CMS rules include a ‘hospitals without walls’ initiative, the agency allows facilities to quickly expand capacity to meet an anticipated shortage of beds. This includes commandeering local facilities like ambulatory surgery centers that may be out of use due to the directive canceling non-essential and elective surgeries.

According to data from MIT Technology Review, among the states anticipate to experience the worst ICU hospital bed shortages are many of those already struggling to contain extensive outbreaks, like New York and New Jersey. But the list also includes states that have been able to keep the virus at bay, like Rhode Island and Alaska.

To help prevent worse-case scenarios from flourishing, then, the rules outline standards by which health treatment facilities can be set up in more nonconventional locations like warehouses, tents, hotels, university dorms and even cruise ships — some of which had, somewhat coincidentally, already been serving as patient quarantine centers.

Meeting Patient Demand for Nurses in a Time of Crisis

To help correct for COVID-19’s acceleration of America’s anticipated RN shortage, the new rules for reimbursement ease restrictions against hiring local nurses, doctors and clinicians. It also lets facilities hire workers licensed in other states — a boon for those that are using travel nurses and clinicians as part to alleviate shortages and meet increased demand.

When it comes to making sure that enough skilled and experienced nurses are available to meet the demand, though, there’s only so much the CMS can do. Expanding scope of practice for CRNAs, PAs and NPs is a no brainer; doing so for students and residents is riskier. Other solutions, like allowing retirees to return to the workforce, bring yet another set of risks.

Stepping into this moment of need are the nation’s medical staffing providers and healthcare managed services (MSPs). By building decades of specific expertise, as well as networks and resources spanning North America, these organizations have the deep bench to help shore up the gap between nurse supply and demand with a deep bench of established professionals.

That’s a particularly potent benefit to offer during a time of crisis and short supply, but it’s not the only one. Sharing nurses between different facilities like SNFs, rehab centers and hospitals helps promote shared skills and knowledge. Having more back-up staff on call can help curb the burnout that often accompanies events like COVID-19, even for facilities that aren’t hard hit.

And, in a time when the individual policies of hospitals and healthcare centers may not be entirely beneficial to stemming the spread of an infectious disease, nationwide healthcare staffing networks also provide the chance to follow a strict, nationwide protocol for adhering to infection protocol and best practices.

We Can Help Your Facility Meet Demand for Nurses

“Nurses and health workers are at the forefront of COVID-19 response, working tirelessly to care for everyone’s loved ones, even when their own lives are at risk,” said Dessislava Dimitrova, Head of Healthcare Transformation at the World Economic Forum.

“As we clap daily to express our appreciation for the health workers around the globe, let us not lose sight of the investments that they need to be strong enough to ensure that everyone, everywhere gets the healthcare they need.”

We couldn’t agree more. But there’s still much work to be done to meet the challenge of COVID-19, which has seen demand for nurses reach new and alarming levels of intensity. To help meet that demand, we’re stepping up efforts to connect our network of thousands of nurses with the facilities

Contact us today and discover how we can help you tackle the full burden of staffing, recruitment, scheduling, administration, management, benefits procurement, and much more.

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