Pandemic Strains Nursing Shortages & Healthcare Staffing Challenges

Pandemic Strains Nursing Shortages & Healthcare Staffing Challenges

The pandemic has accelerated major changes in the job industry over the last two years. It’s true that the adaptation and seamless integration of social media, smartphone applications, and technology were already changing the way people search for jobs, creating new jobs, and changing the way tasks were completed. Nevertheless, months of forced isolation, work from home, and social distancing sped up technology’s assimilation and compelled companies to investigate and innovate more avenues for their workforce, and drove up the demand for freelance and “gig” workers.

Travel Nursing Gains Attention from Facilities, Nurses, and Media

Travel nursing is by no means a new niche in the medical industry, and yet over the last two years it’s received mega media attention drawing scores of nurses out of hiatus, out of retirement, and out of nursing schools and into working eight to 13 week long contracts in different geographic locations, following the demand and following the money.

Due to the already present nursing shortages, travel nursing has been a vital key to healthcare facilities accessing skilled clinician staff to meet the sharp fluctuations of patient intake. Nevertheless, challenges for the facilities remain and their responses and strategies are showing creativity, ingenuity, and practicality.

Healthcare Facilities Are Getting Creative

Supply Monitoring

Monitoring supply levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) isn’t enough for facilities as we push through year two of the COVID pandemic. Sharp rises for patient intake often come without warning and deplete supplies of swaps, gloves, gowns, and more. Some facilities, such as UChicago Medicine, are focusing on their supply chain, and conducting daily inventories in order to keep supply inventories full.

This method serves the well-being of the patients and hospitals in general, but importantly, serves to ensure the well-being of its staff. In the first year of the pandemic, if you’ll remember, supply shortages were a major problem contributing to serious stress and anxiety for nurses and allied health staff.

Team Up with University Talent and Labs

Hospitals are utilizing their associations with university labs and tapping into the student and professor talent and lab equipment to create their own PPE, and coronavirus test supplies. This allows facilities to conduct the frequent screening on their own staff, in-house which allows for more comfort and quicker results. A few of the hospitals that have implemented this strategy include: UCLA Health in Southern California and UW Medicine in Seattle.

Reevaluating Staff Responsibilities

With nurse to patient ratios a constant concern, some facilities are assigning other staff to pick up some of the more minor yet time consuming responsibilities that nurses typically attend to, such as answering the phones.

In the height of crisis in 2020, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City created a support telephone line, PATCH 24, for family members to relieve the burden from physicians and nurses on the COVID front lines who were facing unprecedented intake numbers with serious illness. This phone line was staffed in shifts by palliative care physicians who communicated medical updates to patient families and gathered information about patient and family desires for medical treatment and end of life decisions.

In Rochester, Virginia, officials are investigating an option to create a nurse help line that 911 operators can refer to that would provide medical guidance and potentially refer caller to an urgent care clinic via taxi or Uber instead of utilizing ambulance and emergency department resources.

Ambulance Routing

EMS and ambulance teams in several cities over the last two years have utilized various strategies including group text chats to identify area hospitals with lower patient volume and shorter wait times in an attempt to not only reduce the strain on hospital overflow, but ensure their patients can receive care in the quickest manner possible.

Increase Staffing Levels Temporarily

Utilizing travel clinicians to bolster staff numbers to help hospital staff withstand dramatic increases in patient intake, that while stressful and serious are ultimately temporary, is another manner in which hospitals and health systems seek to weather the pandemic.

Travel nurses have been a mainstay figure over the last two years, but what may surprise you is that facilities are contracting other travel medical positions as well including:

  • physical therapists

  • occupational therapists

  • speech therapists

  • locum tenens physicians

  • certified nursing assistants

  • allied health workers

Contracting short term staff relieves the burden on the already-present hospital staff and so much more. In addition to temporarily filling vacancies and lowering nurse to patient ratios, travel clinicians relieve facilities of the tedious steps involved in the process of hiring new full-time staff, and absolves them of taking on long term financial burdens of more permanent staff.

Travel clinicians don’t receive any benefits from the facility with which they are contracted. Furthermore, the travel staff agency is responsible for background checks, references, and organizing the travel arrangements, and the clinician responsible for organizing their housing.

Benefits for Travel Clinicians with Elite Specialty Staffing

While travel positions are a boon for the facilities in part because they don’t provide any benefits, that doesn’t mean travel clinicians don’t receive benefits at all! When you sign up with Elite Specialty Staffing you’ll receive these comprehensive benefits:

  • Health, Dental, and Vision Insurance

  • Travel Reimbursement

  • Housing Stipend

  • Referral Bonus

  • Professional Liability Insurance

  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance

  • Food and Incidentals Stipend

Moreover, you’ll garner emotional benefits as well. Elite Specialty Staffing has no requirement on how many contracts you work in a year. You choose when you accept a contract, and if you need or want some time off in between contracts, that is absolutely your prerogative and your right. Prioritize the type of work you want to do instead of the location, and build your path to a new specialization or a new certification. The freedom and control over your life and your career can build satisfaction and confidence, allowing you to be the best you.