Shattering 3 myths about travel nursing

Hospitals and healthcare systems need to find the right mix of permanent and temporary nursing staff to provide quality care for patients and achieve financial efficiency. Contrary to some commonly held myths, temporary travel nurses are equal to permanent staff nurses in terms of quality, cost and patient satisfaction.

That's the conclusion from several major peer-reviewed studies over the past decade that explode myths about the use of travel nurses in hospitals and other care delivery facilities. These findings validate our experience in healthcare staffing, where we've found that travel nurses are comparable to staff nurses.

Sufficient research exists today to finally debunk myths about three factors of travel nursing:

Cost-effectiveness: Using travel and other temporary nurses in the proper mix with permanent staff nurses can be cost even, according to a study in the April 2015 edition of the Journal of Nursing Care Quality. "A lot of health system leaders believe supplemental nurses are a great way to handle the ebbs and flows of the business," said Landry Seedig, Division President of Travel Nursing at AMN Healthcare. "For hospitals that use contingent labor in the right way, it's cost effective. That means they are using it for census fluctuations, seasonal difference, EMR projects or to fill in for leaves or vacations." The study also found that temporary nurses may be more cost-effective than using overtime by permanent staff nurses.

Patient satisfaction: Temporary nurses have the same influence on patient satisfaction as permanent nursing staff, according to a study published in the March 2015 edition of the Journal of Nursing Administration. The research results showed that communications with patients, medication explanations and pain control are essentially the same whether a nurse is permanent or temporary. "There are no adverse outcomes for patients in hospitals that employ supplemental nurses," said study author said Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. "This is a safe strategy for hospitals to use to maintain safe staffing levels."

Quality of care: Dr. Aiken's foundational study on nursing care quality published in the July 2007 edition of the Journal of Nursing Administration found that qualifications for temporary nurses are equivalent to permanent staff nurses nationwide. The study also found that temporary nurses tend to have higher levels of education and more current educational experience. "... There is no reason to be concerned about quality of care with supplemental nurses," Dr. Aiken said. "...There are some commonly-held myths in healthcare that are simply not true." These findings are bolstered today by enhanced quality testing for temporary nurses. At AMN, we've developed our own rigorous testing products for the healthcare professions provide to hospitals and healthcare systems, and we are constantly upgrading our testing. In fact, some hospitals have adopted our tests for their own staff candidates.

The right mix of permanent and temporary staff also provides a relief valve from overwork and burnout. Overtime is a poor solution for staffing problems at hospitals, said researcher Ying Xue, DNSc, RN, associate professor at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. "There is a lot of research that's been conducted to demonstrate that overtime is related to poor patient outcomes and poor nurse outcomes," Xue said. "Nurses are more likely to burn out and to quit." Burnout and turnover create significant costs for healthcare facilities and create a troubled work environment.

Myths about travel nurses may have hindered healthcare facilities from creating the flexible staffing mix they needed during events such as census fluctuations, seasonal differences, EMR projects and leaves or vacations. With conclusive evidence that temporary and staff nurses are equal in terms of quality, cost and patient satisfaction, hospitals and health systems can engage the proper nurse staffing mix to provide the highest quality and most efficient patient care.

Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, is the Chief Clinical Officer for AMN Healthcare. Throughout her tenure with AMN, Dr. Faller has championed the development of consistent quality standards for credentialing and competency evaluation of healthcare professionals, setting AMN apart in the industry and giving it a name synonymous with quality healthcare professionals.

As a result of her efforts, the AMN rigorous screening and quality control processes meet and often exceed Joint Commission and the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) standards. Since joining AMN in 1989, as Vice President of Nursing, Dr. Faller has taken on roles of increasing responsibility and, throughout her tenure; she has led sales teams, implemented de novo service lines, and provided leadership for both information technology and human resources. Currently Dr. Faller leads a team of approximately 200 staff in credentialing, education and clinical service areas under a Shared Services model. Active in the healthcare industry, Dr. Faller holds Board positions with the Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices and the) Community Health Improvement Partners. She is also on the Joint Commission advisory council for the Healthcare Staffing Services Certification program. Dr. Faller earned a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Arizona, a master of science in nursing and doctorate in nursing from the University of San Diego, and is currently on faculty in the school of nursing at University of San Diego where she teaches business courses to nurses in both the masters and doctoral programs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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