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Does use of contingent healthcare professionals mean a problem with management? What do buyers think of the quality of temporary nurses in comparison with their staff nurses?
Three healthcare executives — two who use temporary healthcare staffing and one who doesn’t — discussed their opinions and other issues last Friday in the closing “Voice of the Customer” session at Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2011 Healthcare Staffing Summit in Philadelphia.
Panelist Stephanie Conners, chief nursing officer at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, said her facility doesn’t use contract labor. Reliance on contract staff to fill a labor shortage may stem from poor leadership, Conners said. Managers with an exorbitant amount of vacancies may be asked why they can’t retain nurses.
A second panelist, James Trzcinski, said his hospital tries to get external staffing down to as close to zero as possible. The hospital operates internal float pools, said Tryzinski, who is director, management services at Ohio State University Medical Center. Still, “when we need you, we really need you,” he said of temporary staffing.
Scott Whitacre, the third panelist and director, procurement and supply, external human services, Kaiser Permanente, said contingent labor allows the company to try before it buys as well as helps fill internal demand.
Panelists also discussed the need for balancing cost containment and quality in staffing decisions.
Although Conners’ facility doesn’t use contract labor, she stressed “you can’t jeopardize patient safety.”
As for quality of temporary nurses, Trzcinski said, “in general, we haven’t found a lower quality level when we use temporary nurses.”
In response to a KPMG study aimed at addressing the perception that temporary nurses are more expensive than staff nurses, Trzcinski said the study got him thinking. “The study did point out a lot of things that I didn’t consider,” he said.
Panelists also discussed demand for staff.
Healthcare reform will likely raise demand for healthcare professionals, Whitacre said.
Conners said her hospital is seeing a flood of nurse applicants and nurses are staying in the workforce longer. The hospital even has nurses in their 70s. “We just have more nurses than we can actually use,” she said.
In addition, hospitals are looking for nurses with bachelor’s degrees, not just associate degrees, Conners said.