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With health systems currently exploring many viable labor strategies including telehealth, upskilling/cross-training team members, utilizing part-time or per diem resources, and moving patients and/or staff around within a system, we felt compelled to go deeper into the topic of how to procure and maximize the use of agency labor to help meet COVID-19 demand by offering ten specific strategies. In this part, we discuss strategies for attracting travel clinicians, how to utilize and deploy them effectively, and the value of streamlining the on-boarding process.
5. Offer 48-hour contracts to travelers
Increasing hourly rates are not the only tool available to help a health system attract travel clinicians. While hourly rates need to be competitive in today’s market, increasing the number of guaranteed hours from 36 to 48 can help health systems differentiate and fill their open positions.
Typically, travel clinicians work on 36-hour contracts. Out of these 36 hours, staffing companies compensate the clinician, pay housing and travel stipends, and cover their fixed costs and margin. When the guaranteed hours in a travel contract increase from 36 to 48, staffing agencies have already accounted for some of the costs and will pass this benefit on to the health system by charging overtime after the 48th hour, instead of the 40th. The agency still pays the clinician for overtime over 40 hours, but they are not billing the health system at the overtime rate.
The 48-hour guarantee represents a win-win-win as the health system has increased continuity of care and less overtime costs, the travel clinician has more guaranteed pay, and there are more billable hours for the staffing agency before having to incur the costs of placing and moving the clinician elsewhere.
6. Supplement an existing float pool, or create a new pool, by using travelers
One way to utilize and redeploy travel clinicians is through a regional float pool strategy. This contingent workforce is mobile and able to be deployed or redeployed prior to the start of a shift.
When deploying a nurse for primary care, it is very important to make sure the experience of the clinician matches the area of float. A good practice is to utilize the nurse to the full spectrum of their skill while also taking into consideration their individual experience and comfort level. For example, a PCU experienced nurse could float to all PCUs, telemetry units, and med-surg units, if they have that experience. However, there are many specialties that are specific in nature, such as cardiac care units, so the clinician’s experience should match the areas they float to.
“If the nurse’s skill set is not a match with the areas of need, health systems are utilizing nurses as ‘helping hands’ to assist with tasks on the units when staffing is short.” – @Bambi Gore, SimpliFi Chief Clinical Officer
7. Evaluate and streamline the on-boarding process
A travel clinician is a clinician with experience. If they have traveled before or had a long career before traveling, they can easily get up-to-speed on new environments and cross-train quickly. Travelers are adaptable, and this is why they are often tapped as preceptors to onboard new nurse graduates based on their ability to quickly acclimate to new health systems.
For this reason, it may be necessary for health systems to review and relax certain on-boarding measures, such as learning modules that may unnecessarily delay securing a clinician for your health system.
In addition to evaluating the content of on-boarding, it is also important to ensure the frequency and availability of orientations do not turn away or delay the start dates of clinicians considering a travel assignment. With the current rate climate, delaying a start date by a few days or a week could serve as a meaningful enough financial dissuader for a clinician, which can prompt them to work elsewhere.
Due to COVID-19, it is key for health systems to be able to bring in travel clinicians, use them as efficiently and effectively as possible, and ensure there is minimal delay from when they are hired to when they start. The use of 48-hour contracts, float pools, and streamlining the onboarding process are all useful strategies that can help health systems better meet the labor demands created by COVID-19.