Last Updated on October 18, 2023
Especially since Covid-19 struck, flexible staffing has become a necessity for many businesses — and healthcare is no exception. But it’s also more complex in the clinical setting that it is in other workplaces. So, what does a flexible staffing model mean in healthcare, exactly? What should employers know about flexible staffing in terms of hospital or other facility-based care? Additionally, how can flexible staffing help providers overcome workforce management issues?
In this overview, explore the benefits of flexible staffing and five key ways for healthcare providers to achieve it.
> Need help with clinical workforce management challenges? Learn how CareerStaff can help
What is a Flexible Staffing Model?
Flexible staffing, or the practice of supporting a regular workforce with alternative solutions, has been a core practice in healthcare for decades. Even before the pandemic, effective clinical workforce management involved dealing with the ebbs and flows in care with temporary or contingent workers.
Utilization has always surged in ways ranging from the somewhat predictable (for example: holidays, flu season) to the less so, including natural disasters and local disease outbreaks. An ongoing nursing shortage has made maintaining the staff needed to provide quality care more challenging than ever. New regulations are only compounding this challenge, and these trends are only accelerating in the wake of Covid-19.
For today’s healthcare providers, contingency staffing is just one aspect of a full range of options for a flexible staffing model. Here’s how telehealth, automation technology, and other solutions are helping offering employers more options for flexibility than ever before.
4 Methods of Flexible Staffing in Healthcare
#1: Contingency Workers
A system for ensuring that healthcare workers are utilized only when and where they’re needed, contingency staffing has long been used to handle surges in utilization and swings in the labor market. Since the pandemic, though, the use of travel, temp, per diem and other temporary and/or contract workers has moved from reactive measure to standard operating procedure.
Always valuable as a temporary way to ensure continuity of care during challenging times, contingency staffing is now widely used on a permanent basis. That’s because integrating a permanent contingency staffing solution can help ensure that a workforce has the resources at hand to deal with unexpected events, at any given time.
On top of that, effective contingency planning also helps providers:
- Cut costs by cutting overtime and employing workers only when they’re needed
- Avoid unexpected understaffing, which has been shown to affect patient safety and quality of care
- Accelerate the acquisition and onboarding of needed workers
- Improve efficiency by curbing compassion fatigue and burnout among overworked clinical staff
- Improve morale by giving permanent employee more time to go on vacation, maternity or sick leave
- Promote a safer, healthier, more positive and supportive company culture
- Increase access to care by connecting with a network of specialists and experts over a wider region
- Earn more reimbursement dollars, especially as CMS shifts to outcomes-based payments
- Build a better workforce by extending offers to exceptional contract workers
#2: Telehealth and Remote Care
While also really decades old, telehealth and remote care have exploded in usage since the pandemic. The need for remote care caused by Covid-19 and CMS reimbursement incentives may have driven this use, but its effects are still with us.
Telehealth lets employers implement a flexible staffing model by letting fewer caregivers effectively manage more patients or residents. For instance, many organizations now use remote chronic care management nurses to remotely manage entire population segments. This helps save employers important space in their labor budget. It can also free up time in the schedules of the nurses and clinicians they employ.
> Looking for nurses specializing in telehealth? Request nursing staff here
#3: Automation and AI
Another way that new flexible staffing models are transforming healthcare is in the sourcing and recruiting of clinical workers. While automation and technologies called AI aren’t going to actually replace clinical workers, they do help administrators manage them more efficiently.
This kind of technology can also be applied to help improve the sourcing of workers. It can not only speed up processes for interviewing, screening and credentialing, but also improve their results. And integrating technology like predictive analytics into the process helps employers better understand future staffing needs, which helps them extend their workforce budget even further.
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#4: Different Models of Care
Flexible staffing can include not just improvements to processes, but in day-to-day care delivery, too. For instance, more and more clinical departments now use the team-based approach to care since the pandemic (although it originated much earlier than that).
Especially helpful in acute care departments and facilities, the team nursing delivery model helps improve delegation, communication and collaboration at key moments. As a result, it can boost the speed and efficiency of care delivery, and give employers the chance to get more done with fewer workers.
> Learn more: Take a deeper dive into the benefits of the team nursing model
How to Achieve Flexible Staffing in Healthcare
How can leaders realize all of these options for flexible staffing? Larger organizations with extensive resources often take on the burden of contingency staffing internally. And smaller facilities, groups and practices might also look to cut costs by tasking current HR and administrative workers with sourcing, hiring, and managing contingency workers.
Yet for organizations of all sizes, the benefits of partnering with a third-party are becoming too advantageous to resist. Doing so turns a complex, multi-faceted process into a single, easily managed line-item on their balance sheet. It also applies greater expertise to every aspect of flexible staffing.
An established healthcare managed services provider (MSP) can help employers apply greater expertise to essential processes to source the best possible candidates for every opening, as quickly as possible. It also pays the workers, offers a suite of benefits designed to ensure satisfaction in the career model they’ve embraced, and handles all legal and regulatory obligations from their employment.
Meet Your Flexible Staffing Needs with CareerStaff
At CareerStaff Unlimited, we’re proud to deliver the solutions healthcare employers need to implement a flexible staffing model that works. With our nationwide network of clinical workers to high-level healthcare MSP services, we can not only quickly source and deliver the qualified talent your facility needs, but help implement the long-term process improvements, too.
Learn more about how our award-winning, Joint Commission-Certified staffing and workforce solutions can help your organization. Contact us today for more info or to set up a consultation, or get started by requesting contingency staff now.