Variable Staffing in Healthcare Is More Important than Ever. Here’s How to Achieve It

Last Updated on November 5, 2021

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, variable staffing in healthcare has become more important than ever. Now more than ever, healthcare workforce management offer a more successful way forward.

A mainstay of nurse and hospital workforce management for decades, variable staffing has gained renewed interest in healthcare in recent years, and with good reason. As with many industries, consumer demand can vary wildly in healthcare, shifting from moments of unexpected high utilization to periods of low occupancy. This is a balance that can sometimes be predicted, and sometimes can’t.

So far, nothing new. No matter what specific staffing or workforce model that’s in use, patient care can always be expected to fluctuate. Some events, like the yearly flu season, can be foreseen (although their severity is sometimes a surprise). And more advanced methods of predictive and simulation modeling have provided strategists with a fairly accurate plan for ER utilization.

Yet some events transcend these models, as the pandemic has so painfully reminded us. Less severe but still a cause for concern are the spate of natural disasters that have broken records in damage caused while displacing thousands, wreaking a disastrous impact on their communities. In many of these events, the local healthcare system is burdened almost to the point of breaking (or worse).

Enter Variable Staffing

Variable staffing has long been used as a means to help facilities prepare for both the predictable and less-predictable events that drive utilization and, therefore, staffing levels. As John C. Hershey, William J. Abernathy and Nicholas Baloff pointed out way back in 1971, it’s designed to provide for “staffing adjustments to meet work load through the use of a common pool of cross trained personnel.”

It exists in opposition to static staffing, which isn’t designed to vary too significantly, and doesn’t have the ability to significantly scale up or down as utilization changes. Especially for facilities in areas prone to natural disasters (a category that may include everyone, thanks to COVID-19), the ability to scale up to meet expanded need is a critical, literally life-or-death component of any operational strategy.

The ability to scale down can be just as important. Nurses and clinical staff can become frustrated if they’re not getting enough shifts, or if they’re not able to work in other units when things are slow in theirs. A number of studies have connected professional satisfaction with quality of patient care. Plus, paying skilled professionals at times when they’re not really needed can be a major financial burden.

By adopting a variable approach to its larger pool of talent, facilities can much more readily scale up and down to meet fluctuations in demand and utilization. However, the extent to which variable staffing is even an option depends in great measure on the ability to hire, manage and retain a local staff of qualified healthcare workers — an ability that any facility can achieve with the help of healthcare workforce management.

Achieving Variable Staffing with the Help of Healthcare Workforce Management Solutions

Variable staffing is gaining in popularity not just because it’s the most sensible method to deal with fluctuating patient volume, but because it’s also more readily available. As regional health systems and nationwide networks continue to grow, their respective pools of talent also expand. It’s of little surprise, then, that the biggest players have sophisticated variable staffing plans at the ready.

For more modest-sized providers, and for small, independent facilities, variable staffing can be harder to achieve. That’s where healthcare workforce solutions come into the picture. By partnering with a staffing and recruitment provider with a nationwide base of talent to draw from, healthcare facilities can gain the power to implement an effective variable staffing model almost instantaneously.

There’s more: In addition to giving you access to a pool of healthcare talent that spans the United States and includes not just nurses and clinicians but also pharmacists, techs, administrators and HR professionals, among many others, a sophisticated workforce management partner can also implement software solutions to improve your processes for hiring, onboarding, training and many other tasks.

In short, healthcare workforce management is designed to save time, resources and, ultimately, money for the people who actually provide care. And it does so by leveraging not just top-flight talent acquisition methods and networks, but also the latest workforce management technologies, sourcing techniques and recruitment strategies — all fully customizable to integrate into existing systems.

Ready to Get Started?

With decades of collective experience in healthcare workforce management and a nationwide network of skilled, trained and motivated professionals to call upon, CareerStaff Unlimited is proud to offer the solutions you need to meet your staffing goals and so much more. You can submit a staffing request here, or contact us today to find out more.

Contact CareerStaff