5 ways hospitals are giving nurses more flexibility

More hospitals and health systems are betting on workplace flexibility advancements as a key strategy to boost nurse recruitment and retention. In recent months, various leaders have talked to Becker's about their efforts to give nurses more flexibility in their schedules and roles. 

Weekend roles: Detroit-based Henry Ford Health Health created a role where nurses could choose to just work weekends if that fits into their lifestyle better. Similarly, USC Verdugo Hills Hospitals in Glendale Calif., piloted a weekender program where nurses who commit to working Friday through Sunday earn more, with the added benefit being that "nurses who don't like working weekends often can work less weekends and more weekdays," because more weekend shifts are being covered, Theresa Murphy, BSN, RN, the hospital's chief nursing officer, told Becker's

Gig economy models: To stand out when it comes to recruitment, Mercy, a multistate health system based in Chesterfield, Mo., has harnessed an employment model usually associated with ride-share services and food delivery. The Mercy Works On Demand app and online platform allows the health system's full- and part-time nurses — and other experienced nurses in the area — to pick up gig shifts. Renton, Wash.-based Providence is also testing ways to enable employees to choose the shifts — ranging from four to 12 hours — that they want to work, which is all part of embracing the gig mindset model. 

"What if we thought of all of our positions as gig economy positions where workers can work when they want to, where they want to and potentially [in the future] even choose the pay rates they want?" said Greg Till, Providence's chief people officer. 

Internal agencies: Throughout the pandemic, agrowing number of organizations, including Henry Ford, began to offer internal travel programs to attract workers and cut contract labor expenses. The internal agencies allow nurses who want to work in different settings to do so, and they earn a higher pay rate for their flexibility. 

Fixed-term positions: Some hospitals, including USC Verdugo Hills, are offering a number of fixed-term positions for nurses who don't want a full-time position, with the option for permanent employment once the term is up. 

Innovative nursing models: Healthcare organizations are embracing tele-ICU nurses and virtual nursing as a way to keep nurses in the workforce for longer, as the positions are less physically intensive than bedside positions. Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health is one system looking to expand its use of virtual nurses. "Those virtual nurses are needed that have the wisdom and experience to help the other nurses do things like admissions, discharges and transfers, educating the patients and making rounds with the physicians virtually — what will be a way, we think, to extend some of our nurses' careers because it's not so physically taxing," Kathy Sanford, DBA, RN, told Becker's in December. Meanwhile, Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health intends to launch virtual nurses across its 88 hospitals in 26 states over the next year and half.

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