Health systems create alternatives to contract workers

Hospitals and health systems are focusing on efforts to fill staffing gaps and provide flexibility to the workforce. For some organizations, this means creating a talent pool.

Take Hennepin Healthcare, for example. The Minneapolis-based system is implementing ShiftMed's platform that will provide a pool of local nurses and allied health professionals to fill open shifts. Those who fill shifts may end up becoming permanent employees.

"I see this as a huge opportunity to grow our team and talent," Hennepin Healthcare CEO 

Jennifer DeCubellis told Becker's. "We see a lot of people who have left the profession but didn't want to leave the profession. They want to work in the profession on their own terms. And this is an opportunity for them to re-engage with some flexibility."

Ms. DeCubellis said she also views the effort as an opportunity in terms of wellness and stability for employees.

"They're feeling a demand to pick up overtime or to cover shifts so that we don't feel short staffed. That environment is a real pressure point, and we need our healthcare workers. So this is a huge opportunity for us to get the best of both of those worlds and funnel people into our system," she said. 

Hennepin Healthcare's approach comes as hospitals and health systems across the country are considering workforce strategies within today's healthcare environment. 

The needs of the workforce have continued to change across industries in the U.S. These needs have been influenced by various trends, including changing demographics and workers' continued desire for scheduling flexibility. 

Additionally, hospitals and health systems have struggled with high labor costs in recent years due to inflation and reliance on contracted travel nurses to address workforce shortages. Hospital CEOs told Becker's that organizations must get creative to combat labor costs and retain workers. 

Like Hennepin Healthcare, some are taking the approach of creating talent pools.

One example is Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health, started its own internal travel staffing agency, FirstChoice


"Nurses and other clinical specialists who don't want full-time employment or need more flexibility in their schedule — rather than having them go work for external agencies and paying a king's ransom — they have a pay program that provides more in terms of hourly rates and offers flexibility in their schedules," Trinity Health President and CEO Mike Slubowski told Becker's


He added that creating the staffing agency was "very helpful at points where we needed external support and it was a way to retain nurses who were going to leave because they were seeking more flexible arrangements."


Overall, health systems continue to evaluate what works in their environment. 


"Healthcare is a high-touch, high-person-focused profession," Ms. DeCubellis, with Hennepin Healthcare, said. "We need to be able to expand our team of people that look, feel, act like our team. It's a culture. And this [ShiftMed platform] is a huge opportunity for us to be able to do that. It doesn't feel like I've just got another warm body next to me. I've actually got a team member who knows us and is invested in the success of our community."

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