Staffing Agency vs. Staffing Partner: Key Differences

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Written by Katherine Zheng, PhD, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Members of a hospital staff, including nurses provided by a staffing partner, walk down the hallway together.

Healthcare facilities across the U.S. are pressed with the ongoing challenge of being short-staffed with nurses. If you are a facility leader, you may have considered finding a staffing agency to help you combat this industry-wide issue. But while an agency might be able to help you with a quick-fix, it can be even more valuable to work with a long-term staffing partner that can help stabilize your workforce for years to come.

While agency and partner are often used interchangeably among staffing companies, there are some key differences that set partners apart. To help you make the most informed business decisions possible, we go over what these differences look like in detail.

Staffing Agency vs. Staffing Partner: Meaning and Overview

A staffing agency, or staffing vendor, is a company that provides temporary nursing services for healthcare facilities needing to fill vacant shifts. A facility will typically notify an agency of any openings that need to be covered. The agency will then send over nurses (often working as contractors) who are available to work in these placements.

A staffing partner elevates the services of a staffing agency by providing a devoted partnership rather than a one-time staffing fix. Beyond supplying nurses to cover shifts, a partner will get to know your facility and also offer ongoing support that is uniquely tailored to your needs. They are more invested in the long-term growth and success of your workforce.

So, you may be wondering, does that mean a partner can also be an agency? Yes, but an agency doesn’t always provide the right resources to be a reliable partner. Certain staffing companies are designed to fill shifts as more of a transactional service, while others truly want to serve as a business partner who is invested in your continued success.

How Can I Differentiate Between an Agency And a Partner? 3 Key Questions To Ask

While finding a devoted partnership may sound ideal, it can be difficult to discern companies wanting to act more as a partner than an agency when these titles are thrown around synonymously. As you scope out different staffing companies, these three questions can help you make the distinction.

1. Is this company interested in our long-term goals?

Nursing is a field where turnover is rampant, and tackling staffing issues goes well-beyond temporary coverage. A partner will understand this, offering long-term guidance to help you maintain a strong and stable workforce.

When you work with a partner, staffing solutions will feel like a shared effort. A partner will essentially see your long-term goals as their own, while an agency or vendor will be interested in temporary deliverables.

A company that is invested in your goals will:

  • Learn about your facility — A partner will want to fully understand how your facility operates to help you meet your long-term goals. They will take interest in what you are looking to improve and make an effort to stay updated about your progress.
  • Propose comprehensive solutions — Being a partner means offering solutions that will comprehensively address staff coverage and retention. This may involve helping with long-term strategy, such as annual evaluations to anticipate peak periods leading to staff shortages. It could even involve support for your in-house hiring strategy even if that means less opportunities for short-term staffing, a solution that a temporary staffing agency wouldn’t be eager to recommend.
  • Provide accessible resources — A company that is invested in your goals will want to provide resources aimed at sustaining your workforce. This may include providing informative research and policy briefs, staff training services, or a reliable support line.

2. Is the nursing staff properly credentialed and trained to meet our needs?

Since staffing agencies are designed to fill shifts as quickly as possible, they may not always assign nurses appropriately trained for your placements. This is not to say that the nurse lacks skills. More-so, there may be a mismatch between the nurse’s experience and the type of facility they’re sent to.

The nursing field is diverse, and a critical care nurse will be equipped with a different skill set than, say, an outpatient nurse. Partners will understand how to take these differences into account, using more precision to match their staff with your facilities.

Beyond finding available nurses, a partner will ensure that staff are:

  • properly credentialed and trained
  • incentivized not to cancel or show up late
  • equipped with relevant experience

Additionally, many staffing agencies will commonly hire 1099 contractors, which can come with legal and financial risks for facilities looking to meet their staffing needs. A staffing partner may alternatively provide a W2 nursing workforce, which can help you reduce the risks of any unlawful hiring practices.

3. Does this company regularly and reliably communicate with us?

How a company communicates indicates a lot. You may only hear from an agency when it’s time to fill an open shift or pay a bill. On the contrary, a partner will regularly follow-up after your shifts are filled. They’ll take an interest in what works and what doesn’t as a continued effort to meet your shared goals.

Reliable communication also means being present when things go wrong. A partner will share accountability if an incident arises with nursing staff and offer professional resources to carry out investigations. These resources may include:

  • credentialled, legal auditing staff
  • a quality assurance team of nurses
  • clear protocol for incident reporting

Looking for a Staffing Partner You Can Trust?

Finding the right partnership can be an overwhelming process. At IntelyCare, we understand the importance of providing transparent, reliable staffing services that are tailored to your needs. Reach out to us today to see the wide range of staffing and management solutions we have to offer.