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Healthcare staffing is critical for safe patient care.  Seasonal changes in staffing demand are common but challenging.  Most healthcare organizations have flexible staffing plans to meet these demands.  Plans often include adding hours for part-time staff, offering bonus pay for extra shifts, and canceling elective procedures. But this isn’t always enough to keep from running short.

COVID-19 Creates Record Staffing Demands for Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic will increase staffing demand.  Increased hospitalizations from influenza are likely to occur at the same time as surges of COVID-19.  How big will surges be?  Models estimates vary. Many hospitals reached surge capacity in the spring and summer months due to the first wave of COVID-19.  In addition, many patients postponed elective procedures due to the pandemic.  But after months of delay, they can’t go untreated any longer.  The result will be an increase in healthcare staffing demand.

Many healthcare providers have developed plans to increase bed space.  As these beds fill with patients, we will need well trained staff to care for them.  Additional support staff such as environmental and food services, equipment technicians, pharmacists, and laboratory staff will be needed too. To meet increased staffing demand and protect our healthcare workforce, plans should focus on increasing staff, not increasing the hours staff work.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC COVID-19 – Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages) and Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19), a strong contingency staffing plan will be more important due to the pandemic.  Both organizations state healthcare staffing will likely be negatively impacted by COVID-19. Concerns listed include:

  • Higher likelihood staff will become ill
  • Increased importance of staff who are ill staying home to avoid infecting others
  • Protection for vulnerable staff (those who are immunocompromised, pregnant, etc.)
  • Increased social stressors such as child care, caring for vulnerable family members, reduced access to transportation, etc.
  • Healthcare is a high risk work place during a pandemic which may cause higher levels of absenteeism due to mental health concerns

Contract Staff Improve Workplace Safety and Patient Care

A strong staffing plan protects and supports the employees, customers and the general public. Depending on staff to work increased hours, or cover different areas, might not be enough to meet demand.  And asking patients to wait longer for care could be unsafe. Increasing numbers of staff will mean the right staff with the right training are available at the right time.

Contract staff are a great solution for market volatility which is why many healthcare systems rely on them. Experienced contractors need very little training time. And temporary staff can be more cost effective because they are hired only to cover expected gaps in staffing.  With warnings of record patient volumes this flu season, contract staff will play a vital role in responding to surges so employers can scale up quickly.  If you are a staffing or recruiting firm in healthcare, or looking to break into the market, there will be an increased need in the next six months. Companies like FoxHire can help meet the workforce demand and support staffing and recruiting firms that provide healthcare talent through Employer of Record Services (EOR).  Contact our team to learn more about how we can ensure healthcare organizations have the staff they need.

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