Hospitals embrace gig mindset for nursing

Hospitals and health systems are embracing the gig economy to provide flexibility to nurses and fill staffing gaps, The Wall Street Journal reported April 18. 

Take Mercy, a multistate health system based in Chesterfield, Mo., as an example. The health system, through a partnership with Trusted Health, has harnessed an employment model usually associated with ride-share services and food delivery and applied it to nursing. Mercy rolled out Mercy Works on Demand, an app and online platform that allows the health system's full- and part-time nurses — and other experienced nurses in the area — to easily pick up gig shifts. The health system launched a pilot program at Mercy Hospital Springfield (Mo.) and, in spring 2022, rolled out the on-demand platform across the health system. 

Healthcare organizations such as Mercy saw the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nurses. Some workers left their local hospital jobs to take travel nursing opportunities. Nurses were also struggling with effects on their physical and mental well-being, leading some to retire early or relinquish bedside positions. And now hospitals and health systems continue to grapple with shortages, although there have been signs of easing labor pressures. A National Council of State Boards of Nursing and National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers study released April 13 found that about 800,000 nurses intend to leave the workforce by 2027.

Embracing gig apps is one way hospitals and health systems are looking to provide flexibility and fill vacancies, according to The Wall Street Journal. This includes Renton, Wash.-based Providence and St. Louis-based SSM Health.

Providence added gig nurses last year and has filled 13,000 shifts for nurses and other medical roles, Mark Smith, who oversees workforce analysis, staffing and optimization for the organization, told The Wall Street Journal. He also told the publication the health system plans to expand gig work to 19 hospitals and nursing homes from 12.

SSM Health has launched various flexible nursing employment options. According to The Wall Street Journal, SSM Health uses two apps to offer premium pay and shifts to nurses. Staff at the health system are prohibited from picking up gig jobs for 12 to 18 months to avoid competing for its own workers, Seth Lovell, BSN, RN, SSM Health's vice president of nursing, told the publication.

While some organizations have joined the gig economy, others, such as Pittsburgh-based UPMC, have created in-house travel staffing programs to address shortages. UPMC launched its own temporary agency a year ago to attract and retain highly skilled nurses and surgical technologists.

Read the full report here

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