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Inside the Industry: Forecasting Your Winter Needs

December 9, 2019 | Workforce Solutions

Each year, as the weather gets cooler, summer turns into fall and fall into winter, some people rejoice over the return of pumpkin spice, while others count down to Black Friday deals and white elephant exchanges. For those that work in healthcare, however, the fall and winter months also signify the start of crisis season – when increased demand for healthcare services meets an increased shortage of healthcare professionals, creating a perfect storm of staffing challenges. The winter months are chronically challenging for facilities that see permanent staff taking holiday time off at the same time census is increased due to the onset of flu season or winter-related illness or injury.

Instead of limiting staff time off or doubling up on overtime shifts for the staff you do have on site – both of which can result in clinician burnout and staff dissatisfaction – it’s wise to seek the help of a staffing agency specialized in meeting your short- and long-term contingent staffing needs.

“The solution to winter staffing shortages is planning ahead,” says April Hansen, RN, MSN, executive vice president of workforce solutions and clinical services at Aya Healthcare. “Traveling clinicians start planning their winter assignments at the end of the summer, so if you wait, you may be too late to secure the best talent. By anticipating your needs 30, 60 and 90 days out, you’ll allow yourself enough time to fill temporary positions – from allied and nursing to locum tenens – with highly qualified staff at competitive, non-crisis rates.”

But even if you’ve made your list and checked it twice, crunch time can still strike without much warning in the early winter, when flu season is in full effect and seasonal staffing shortages are looming on the horizon. While planning ahead is the simplest solution to winter workforce challenges – forecasting your needs based on last year’s staffing and census data is a great first step – sometimes the need for rapid-response staffing is unavoidable.

Not to worry – hiring help is still available. That’s where staffing agencies – especially those that specialize in rapid-response staffing – come into play. However, sometimes rapid-response staffing comes at a high price. Knowing the right questions to ask your agency can help you avoid crisis rates and save your pennies even in a pinch.

“If you realize you need a quick turnaround to fill acute healthcare staffing needs, consider opportunities to modify compliance and accelerate the hiring process,” Hansen adds. “Contact your existing agency to discuss any barriers to onboarding – TB testing, length of assignment and other compliance concerns – and, with a little flexibility, we will work with you to overcome those barriers and help you fill your urgent winter needs.” 

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