The perfect storm could be predicted from the outset of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being signed into law in 2010. The healthcare industry was soon to be inundated with millions of Americans who never had or were currently without health insurance along with many other impacts of the ACA. The predictable result was that health care providers were now dealing with more patients, maintaining ACA recommended staffing ratios, and managing new forms of Health Information Technology. In addition to the regulatory impacts and newly insured patients, other factors contributing to a projected national nursing shortage is an aging baby boomer population needing health care services. Health care industry meet perfect storm!
Recent reports indicate that the demand for travel nurses is at a 20-year high. While the use of travel nurses by hospitals and other facilities is nothing new, as current events are creating greater demand, contract staffing is becoming part of the norm for health care facilities.
Hospitals and other facilities rely on travel nurses for a variety of reasons, including providing coverage while the full-time staff is being recruited and hired, coverage for long-term absences, and support during busier seasons of the year. Let’s take a look at other ways that Hospitals are benefiting through of use of Travel nurse professionals.
Costs. Long thought to be a detriment, a recent University of Rochester study published in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality, found that the utilization of travel nurse staffing is actually more cost effective than having to pay overtime to permanent staffers. Another cost benefit is that travel nurses are employees of the staffing agency. Therefore, administrative costs such as health insurance, paid time off, retirement, etc., are not covered by the hospital.
Coverage for Difficult Positions. As noted in the perfect storm discussion, increased patient populations are contributing to higher rates of burnout and turnover in high volume, high-stress areas, such as the Emergency Room. Travel nurses can be a welcome blessing for facilities that are experiencing recruiting delays, are located in rural or smaller population centers, or have an urgent staffing need. Travel nurses can cover a full range of specialties and fill a void when hospitals are struggling to fill a vacancy or just want to maintain coverage while they go through the recruitment process for full-time staff.
Quality and Patient Satisfaction. Contract nursing staff has been found to positively impact patient satisfaction levels and quality of care in hospitals. Not only do these professionals fill voids in coverage, they are also integral in helping medical facilities maintain optimal nurse-to-patient ratios leading to better quality. Additionally, hospitals have a tendency to “float” staff from other departments to an area of need. Travel nurses with experience in specific disciplines can be brought in to provide coverage instead of placing partially trained or inexperienced nurses into the area of vacancy. A study published in 2013, concluded that travel nurses are typically more diverse in their experiences than the permanent staff at the same time as being equally educated.
Staff Retention. As noted, hospitals are already under pressure to maintain staffing levels as California and other states enact legislation to establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios. To minimize the “burnout” factor, hospitals will continue to rely on travel and contract nurses. Bringing in these nurses allows the facility to provide better working conditions for permanent staff, be more flexible for managing vacation requests, and ensure that standards of care are being met through adequate staffing.
For nursing professionals, demand for their services is expected to increase by 20% through the year 2022. The good news is that there is a growing population of experienced, qualified nursing professionals who make themselves available across the country where they are needed, plus the pipeline is full of new students and trainees who are hearing the call and making nursing their career of choice. Take a moment and leave us your thoughts in the comment section below. What have your experiences been concerning hospital staffing? Are you noticing the impacts of a nursing shortage? Please share your insights with us. You can also stop by our Facebook page and leave us a comment there also.