Per-diem nursing professionals should be anything but a last resort in your staffing strategy. Contingent labor is known as “premium labor” in healthcare for good reason; but the true cost of healthcare contingent labor is often misunderstood.
It’s possible to use these nursing professionals strategically—in a way that results in long-term financial benefit and positive outcomes. This perspective is especially important as more nursing professionals are looking for flexible work options—per-diem models have exploded in nursing with 53% more nurses identifying as per diem in 2020 compared to 2015.
To help you find your ideal post-acute staffing strategy, here are the three pillars of a smart healthcare contingent labor program that nursing leaders need today.
1. Evaluate and Prepare
Your first and most critical step will involve assessing where you stand with contract and per-diem labor, preparing to make the strategic changes that will benefit your organization and care community.
First, you will need to define and document your current policies, along with your guidelines and processes in working with contingent staff. This will help you clarify necessary future steps and where you can make improvements. Look at elements of your contingent labor practices, including how you address onboarding and how contingent worker expectations are determined and defined. Make note of how you source labor and your use of technology.
Map out your partner ecosystem in terms of nurse staffing agencies and other organizations you are working with to support your staffing needs. Also, make note of how your approach to contingent nursing professionals differs from employees.
Benchmark your financial state
This step in the process is an excellent opportunity to evaluate how contingent labor impacts revenue at your facility. Quantify your total outlay for contingent healthcare labor, asking whether you’re spending too much and establishing targets for the future. This pillar is also a chance to assess whether you have solid visibility into the rates you’re paying and overall spend.
Address the compliance question
From state minimum staffing requirements to CMS star ratings, you have multiple concerns in compliance and regulation to keep up with. This is in addition to federal, state, and local standards.
Make sure you have the tools and staff needed to stay in front of your accreditation, licensure, and compliance needs.
2. Manage and Move Forward
As the number of Americans over 65 increases, your management of contingent labor will have an even more significant impact on outcomes and your financial wellbeing.
This population shift means that alignment between HR and procurement teams will be even more critical to avoiding mismanagement and missing opportunities in healthcare contingent workforce management.
Keep everyone on the same page
As you move forward with your plans, look for areas of fragmentation between HR and procurement, admin, and your nursing professionals. You will want to support clear communication and collaboration at all levels. Make sure you’re leveraging data and technology to promote transparency and support strong feedback loops.
Make sure you’re tracking key metrics around financial outlay, turnover, and staff morale as you work to meet objectives as a team.
Embrace Total Workforce Management
Your contingent nursing staff doesn’t exist in a bubble. They have a direct impact on your patients as well as the full-time staff who make your organization what it is.
Total Workforce Management encourages you to look at your contingent workers as part of a single system, allowing you to address them in the context of your entire organization. This can have significant payoff through increased engagement—for example, consider including them in organizational charts and certain communications when appropriate. This approach also makes it easier to track training and certifications, which can become quite complex for post-acute leaders.
Get Smart with Your Float Pool
In an age of increasing nurse burnout, your use of float pools holds more potential benefit than ever. Float pools can be used to complement contingent labor. In many cases, proper float pool management can even help you to reduce your reliance on contingent labor and enhance efficiencies across the board.
The right use of float pool options can quickly translate to opportunities to boost revenue while operating at a higher census. Look for support in strategic partners who encourage work-life balance to make sure you’re bringing on nurses who can best complement your full-time staff and help minimize future strain.
3. Refine and assess
Optimizing your use of per-diem nursing professionals is an ongoing process. This means that you’ll continually look for areas to tweak, adjust, and adapt, especially as the healthcare environment changes and presents new challenges.
Listen to your metrics
Tracking performance won’t make much difference if you aren’t taking action. By benchmarking the performance of contingent labor, you can identify your most effective staffing resources and figure out who to target for re-engagement.
Check in with key stakeholders
As you update and adjust your staffing strategy, make sure that lines of communication with key stakeholders (including executives, managers, schedulers, and patients) are clear. Listen to their feedback in assessing how your strategy impacts financial performance and patient outcomes. Pay attention to any pushback you’re getting on adoption and participation to look for opportunities to adapt to differing perspectives and shifting needs. For example, clinical leaders might be most directly affected by changes in patient safety goals and their opinions might need to take precedence at certain times.
Keep the communication flowing
Don’t let your communication slip as you move deeper into the action phase of your plans. By communicating directly and regularly, you can support ongoing engagement and promote a source of immensely valuable feedback that will inform future improvements to your healthcare staffing strategy.
One of the most critical steps to success in leveraging per-diem nurse professionals is forging a strong relationship with an agency partner who aligns with your goals. To explore your options in incorporating per-diem staff in your future staffing strategies, we invite you to start your conversation with us here.
Megan is a business writer with over 15 years’ experience in healthcare enterprise technology. She holds an MBA and B.S. in Healthcare Administration. She now keeps an ongoing eye on the latest developments and successes in healthcare admin technology and the people who use it to build a better world for providers, patients, and their care communities.