Upstate Works: A Collaborative Triumph Reshaping Healthcare Staffing, Empowering Hospitals, and Attracting Top Talent

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Upstate New York's healthcare systems grappled with a staffing crisis that was affecting hospitals nationwide.

The reliance on traditional agencies to fill vacancies had been the norm, but by the summer of 2020, this dependence had turned into a desperate situation with escalating costs of contingent labor, soaring upwards by 100-200%. Rural hospitals, in particular, faced a challenging decision: could they sustain the rising expenses associated with traditional staffing methods?

The Iroquois Health Association (IHA) a not-for-profit trade organization supporting more than 50 Upstate hospitals and health systems across a vast expanse, took proactive steps to address this issue for their members. Conducting surveys among its members, IHA identified a heavy dependence on contingent staff, leading to significant increases in labor costs. In response, they embarked on a determined quest for alternative solutions to the traditional staffing model.

IHA's success rested on three crucial pillars: 

  • Clear vision: Understanding the market not just from hospital administrators' perspectives, but also from the crucial clinicians themselves.
  • Solid partnership: Finding a trustworthy and capable partner to create and manage a program, leading to the creation of a local, trusted agency in different Upstate regions.
  • Talent appeal: Attracting top-notch healthcare professionals by leveraging the transparency and benefits of an internal agency model.

To break free from the expensive traditional staffing methods, IHA collaborated with industry leader HWL. This partnership resulted in the creation of "Upstate Works," a private label program aimed at directly supplying IHA members with qualified contingent staff. Leveraging HWL's expertise and technology, IHA tailored the program with Talent Acquisition Optimization services, leading to significant cost savings. Since the inception of the program, IHA reports an average of 20% savings across all 22 participating member facilities, achieving a total savings of over $10 million dollars  through over 1,000 contract assignments confirmed in the Upstate Works program.

"HWL has provided us valuable insight into our contingent labor usage and a way to direct source quality candidates for our facility,” Maxine Briggs, Chief Financial Officer at Samaritan Health in Watertown, NY, states. “We have a dedicated Client Services team that ensures we have Samaritan's needs met, optimized our contingent labor spend, and secured top talent. Their dedication and expertise have transformed our contingent workforce into a strategic asset, allowing us to focus on what matters most - delivering exceptional service to our patients."

Lori Kiesel, HWL's Vice President of Business Development, emphasized the imperative nature and streamlined effectiveness of the partnership, expressing, “establishing an internal agency required collaboration with a seasoned, reliable, and results-driven team. Our partnership with IHA was pivotal in swiftly constructing and implementing a tailored program, ensuring each member could leverage the internal agency's resources and reap significant advantages. With time being of the essence, IHA could not afford a protracted implementation, immediate action was the need of the hour."

To attract contingent workers, IHA and HWL extended their reach by promoting job opportunities in the Upstate New York region to nurses across the country. HWL executives, having discovered the appeal of Upstate New York, collaborated with IHA to showcase the region through captivating marketing efforts, including the Upstate Works Facility Tours Campaign.

This campaign featured Nurse Kelley Johnson, a prominent figure in the nursing community known for her inspiring Miss America monologue and tireless advocacy. Her participation in the campaign added a touch of star power and authenticity.

The film crew, with Kelley in tow, embarked on a journey across Upstate New York, visiting three prominent healthcare facilities:

  • Samaritan Health in Watertown, NY: Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, Samaritan Health provides excellent patient care and a warm, welcoming atmosphere for its staff.
  • Wynn Hospital in Utica, NY: This brand new, state-of-the-art hospital offers a blend of advanced medical technology and a strong sense of community.
  • Champlain Valley Physicians' Hospital in Plattsburgh: Nestled amidst the breathtaking Adirondack Mountains, this hospital offers a vibrant community and a rewarding work environment for nurses.

Throughout their journey, Kelley met with nurses who shared the love for their jobs and the communities they serve. Many nurses initially planned for short-term stints but found themselves drawn to the unique charm of Upstate New York and the fulfilling career opportunities offered by these hospitals. 

By combining Kelley's relatable presence with stunning visuals and heartfelt testimonials, the Upstate Works Facility Tours Campaign effectively delivers its message. It showcases the incredible opportunities for clinicians in Upstate New York, while also highlighting the region's undeniable allure as a place to live, work, and raise a family. Multiple videos highlighted the hospitals and were shared on social media and through IHA’s landing page. This campaign is a great example of HWL’s white glove service and desire to help their programs succeed now and into the future.

"We are proud to have collaborated with HWL to create Upstate Works, a program that has not only helped our members save significantly on contingent staffing costs, but helped ensure access to the safe, high-quality care for which our members strive,” Gary Fitzgerald, President and CEO of Iroquois Healthcare Association highlights. “This is a win-win situation for all involved, and we are excited to see the positive impact it has on our healthcare system."

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