The world is currently facing a nurse staffing shortage. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, decreasing numbers of nursing school staff, a retiring workforce, an aging population, and high nurse turnover rates have led to this crisis. A study published in the American Journal of Medical Quality expects a shortage of more than 510,000 RNs by 2030. Because of the staffing shortage, many healthcare facilities are working with staffing agencies to supplement their full-time nursing staff.
While partnering with a staffing agency can help you fill critical positions during the shortage, managing nurses from multiple agencies can be a challenge. When considering how to organize your agency nurse staff, account for the challenges and benefits of using an agency before evaluating the best ways to manage agency nurses.
Challenges of Working With a Staffing Agency
Because of the widespread nursing shortage, many healthcare facilities are looking to supplement their full-time staff with per diem nurses, which they hire through a staffing agency. While partnering with an agency can help your existing workforce, it also comes with challenges. Commonly perceived difficulties of working with a hiring agency include the nurses' unfamiliarity with your healthcare facility, inefficient hiring practices, and extra costs.
Unfamiliarity and Lack of Morale
Nursing can be a physically and emotionally draining job. If your nursing staff has low morale, patient care can suffer. Further, the nurse-patient relationship is crucial to providing a positive patient experience and ensuring the highest quality of patient care. Per diem nurses may not have the time to build relationships with patients based on trust and respect.
Further, per diem nurses are less familiar with your healthcare facility than your full-time nursing staff. Therefore, hiring with a staffing agency could increase your full-time staff's workload. Your nursing staff will most likely have to assist nurses employed by agencies who are unfamiliar with your facility's policies and procedures.
Inefficient Hiring Practices
Nurse staffing agencies are often much slower than internally hiring. During a time when nursing shortages make quickly finding new hires crucial for maintaining a high level of patient care, hiring with a staffing agency could take three months to a year. Staffing agencies sometimes use outdated methodologies to verify a potential nurse's credentials and find an appropriate position for a nurse's skill set, which takes time. Slow hiring speed is ultimately detrimental to providing the highest level of patient care.
Further, hiring agencies lack the same knowledge of the healthcare industry. Agencies might not understand healthcare ethics or the proper credentials nurses need. A lack of understanding concerning the legal implications of nursing could impact patient care and lead to serious consequences for your organization, as agencies may not properly verify a nurse's background and credentials.
Using a staffing agency can also be more expensive than staffing in-house. Some agencies are charging more due to the nurse shortage. Using an agency can also be slower than hiring internally, leading to vacant positions and ultimately costing your organization more money.
The staffing agency's size also matters. Larger ones often have the primary goal of making money. In contrast, mid-sized agencies typically strive to build strong relationships with their clients to match the most qualified nurses to the proper positions. Agencies that focus on their relationship with you will help boost your nursing staff's morale by connecting the proper nurses with the correct positions.
Advantages of Working With a Staffing Agency
Although using a staffing agency to find per diem nurses comes with challenges, it also has its benefits. Many healthcare facilities work with agencies because they take the time to build relationships with applicants, help match candidates with the right positions, and allow staff to focus on other challenges their facility may be facing.
Build Relationships With Applicants
Staffing agencies have one primary focus: to find candidates best matched to your organization's needs. While internal recruiters might spend about half an hour talking to a candidate, staffing agencies can take more time. They can get to know potential hires to help ensure you hire suitable people for the correct positions. You'll save time and resources by not onboarding new hires who don't fit the specific job.
Working with a staffing agency can also help potential candidates feel confident their skills align with the job. Applicants get to know recruiters and have time to ask questions. They'll also have a support system to manage their concerns.
Meet Specific Needs
Because staffing agencies take more time to build relationships with potential hires, they can also better match nurses to jobs that fit their expertise. You'll waste less time in the long run, as you'll be less likely to hire candidates who don't match a particular job.
Hiring per diem nurses also ensures your workforce has maximum flexibility. When full-time, salaried nurses have to take a day off, per diem nurses can step in to pick up the slack. You can also work with a hiring agency to fill vacancies when your facility experiences a period of increased patient volume, preventing your full-time staff from suffering burnout.
Focus on Other Challenges
Using a hiring agency will help you focus on your facility's and staff's other needs. Instead of worrying about hiring the right candidates, tackle tasks like managing your existing workforce and addressing your facility's daily challenges. Internal hiring departments are already busy, so using an agency can assist your current recruitment and hiring staff.
Staffing agencies can also help you with onboarding, saving you time during hiring. They can assist with issuing ID cards to new hires and figuring out scheduling and parking arrangements. The hiring process can be tedious, but staffing agencies ensure you have more time to manage your existing employees. Plus, many agencies offer round-the-clock personalized support to assist you with your current and future staffing needs.
Tips for Keeping Agency Nurses Organized
One challenge associated with using staffing agencies is managing nurses from different organizations. To coordinate your agency nurse staff and optimize workplace operations, schedule tasks on a detailed calendar, regularly set aside time to plan, and use centralized workforce management software.
Keep a Detailed Calendar
Keeping a detailed calendar or to-do list organizes your daily tasks and is one of the best ways to manage agency nurses. While a to-do list is good for seeing all your tasks in one place, a calendar can replace a to-do list by helping you schedule tasks for a specific time and day. Highly successful, productive people prefer using calendars, as they can devote a particular time frame to each task.
Consider keeping all your tasks on one calendar. You can then organize nurses from different agencies by color-coding tasks associated with each agency or employee. Keeping your business tasks and agency-related duties on one calendar minimizes scheduling conflicts, as all your duties are in one place.
Set Time Aside to Plan
Set aside time to process your duties each day, week, month, quarter, and year to stay organized. Update your to-do list and personal calendar at the beginning of each day. After compiling your to-do list, schedule each task for a particular time on your calendar to ensure it'll get done. Review different appointments for the day and research and review new clients or potential hires.
At the end of the week, start planning for the next week. Consider which tasks or appointments might require extra time and strategize accordingly. Finally, look at the big picture by setting long-term professional goals. Picking specific dates and times to complete tasks on your to-do list or reach professional goals will keep your schedule organized when managing nurses from different agencies.
Use Centralized Workforce Management Software
If you're researching how workforce management works for agency employees, consider using a centralized workforce management system. Skilled nursing facility operators have to keep operations running smoothly and efficiently while ensuring the highest quality of care. However, many healthcare facilities struggle with organizing their agency nurse staff because of outdated management systems.
Older workforce management systems require users to compile data concerning resident needs, employee schedules, and staffing data. Then, operators can get an accurate view of staffing needs by determining how this data fits into regulatory demands. When factors like scheduling and regulations remain static, users can add this information to a spreadsheet to see their overall data. However, schedules and resident needs are always changing, so this process is inaccurate and antiquated.
Using modern workforce management software is a top tip for keeping agency nurses organized. Workforce management systems centralize operations while automatically updating in real time to give you the most accurate view of your workforce.
Modern systems streamline operations by:
• Automatically generating optimized employee schedules based on patient needs and the hours a nurse spends with a patient per day
• Finding the best employees for a particular shift or task and providing flexibility so the most qualified staff fills shifts
• Allowing you to easily communicate with employees in real time to notify them of scheduling changes
• Tracking employee productivity and attendance
• Identifying staffing gaps and issues with understaffing
• Preparing compliance reports and organizing federally required staffing information
Keep Your Agency Staff Organized With SmartLinx Workforce Management Software
At SmartLinx, we understand the challenges of organizing agency nurses in modern healthcare facilities. Our workforce management software can streamline operations so your workforce remains as productive as possible. For over 20 years, SmartLinx has been providing workforce management solutions to optimize workplace procedures and keep employees organized. Contact us today or schedule a demo to see how SmartLinx can save your healthcare organization time and maximize your workforce's productivity!