Building your contingency resources: designing an enterprise resource pool
It's a common scenario within inpatient facilities: a bed huddle convenes and breaks with the realization that certain units do not have the staff they need for the patients that are being assigned.
Managers scramble for available resources, conduct recruitment calls, ask staff to extend shifts, and make plans to float core staff from their home base to fill a need on another unit. With the nursing shortage continuing to be felt across the country, filling the gaps of a staffing plan is often accomplished by floating core staff to other units. While necessary, provider organizations are encouraged to limit this practice as much as possible to keep their core staff happy. It's a perpetual balancing act of filling critical staffing needs and not frustrating staff to the point of walking out the door.
Having contingency resources that can flex up and down with patient demand is a vital resource to have and can ease a lot of strain when it comes to staffing. A resource pool is one such resource. Although not a new concept, resource pools have evolved in recent years. Depending on the size of the facility or system, there may be more than one type of resource pool to provide the greatest benefit to the organization. For larger health systems with multiple hospitals within one metro area, an enterprise-wide resource pool is an excellent resource. This type of contingency layer is comprised of highly-skilled and flexible nurses who are able to float to multiple units within multiple facilities. Outsourcing a resource pool and centralizing the deployment of resources can fully leverage this resource.
Finding a trusted partner to identify the right size of resource pool and manage it is a new approach. Collaborating with an organization that has the knowledge and expertise of resource pool strategies sets the healthcare system up for a successful implementation. Examining staffing metrics and conducting an analysis of staffing demand versus supply to discover an organization's current labor state will determine the optimal size of core staff and contingency resources needed to handle volume. Analyzing data such as historical census trends and other key workforce metrics establishes target staffing levels for the organization. Entrusting the right partner to conduct these action steps and build the framework for a resource pool allows the strategy to hit the ground running and provide a quicker ROI for the provider organization.
When designing a resource pool, it is important to remember that it is a contingency resource. Even if resource pool nurses carry an FTE, their purpose is to fill staffing needs once core staff has been scheduled to their commitments. Accordingly, they should not be treated like core staff and blocked to specific units. This defeats the strategy of sharing these resources to fill the organization's most critical needs. Outsourcing this business process to the right partner allows objectivity when deploying resources, placing staff where most needed.
With National Nurses Week coming up next month, May 6-12, the theme is aimed at celebrating nurses who embody health and wellness. There are steps an employer can take to keep their nurses happy and prevent them from feeling frustrated or overworked. Utilizing a resource pool to fill staffing gaps is one solution to meet an organization's needs. Proactively identifying staffing needs and aligning contingency resources to meet this demand can ease a lot of stress that comes with scheduling and staffing. And, finding a trusted partner to manage this resource allows provider organizations, specifically nursing managers, to focus more of their attention on patient care and staff development.
Designing and maintaining a resource pool is not a "be all end all" solution to workforce management. It is a piece of the puzzle that when combined with other strategies such as policy standardization, staffing and scheduling automation, and centralized resource management works to best optimize a provider organization's workforce.
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