Why nurses prefer staffing agencies — beyond the paycheck

Nurses who work for staffing agencies are much more satisfied than their counterparts who serve hospitals, health systems, home healthcare providers and senior living facilities, according to an Oct. 18 report from MIT Sloan Management Review. 

Researchers identified 200 of the largest healthcare employers in the U.S., and calculated how highly nurses rate the organization and senior leadership on Glassdoor from the beginning of COVID-19 through June 2023 (view their ranking here). 

The five highest-ranked employers in the sample were staffing agencies, according to the report — and higher compensation only accounts for part of nurses' satisfaction. Researchers analyzed the free text on Glassdoor to determine how positively nurses spoke about 200 topics, and found that nurses spoke more highly of staffing agencies on issues other than pay. 

Overall, 75% of nurses' comments about staffing agencies were positive, compared with 23% of nurses' comments about health systems. 

Staffing agencies have other healthcare employers beat in problem resolution, the researchers found. Seventy-three percent of nurses said staffing agencies resolved problems efficiently, compared to 31% of nurses employed by hospitals and health systems. The difference was even greater when it came to resolving problems effectively — 55% of nurses say staffing agencies do this, compared to 9% of nurses at hospitals and health systems. 

Nurses also rated staffing agencies more highly on several measures related to honesty, according to the report. Three-quarters of nurses employed by staffing agencies spoke highly of their organizations' speed in replying to inquiries; less than one-quarter of nurses employed by hospitals and health systems praised their organization on timely replies. Staffing agencies scored 41 percentage points higher on transparency, 36 points higher on trust and 46 points higher on honesty than their hospital and health system counterparts. 

Although nurses employed by staffing agencies also ranked their compensation and work-related stress levels significantly better than nurses employed by hospitals and health systems, the latter took the lead in some metrics. Nurses prefer hospitals and health systems for health and retirement benefits, learning and development opportunities, and connection with colleagues: all "important aspects of organizational life," according to the report. 

"Healthcare systems can learn from staffing agencies, but they can also leverage their own distinctive advantages to attract and retain nurses," the report says. "Healthcare systems should invest in their comparative advantages and emphasize them when communicating their value proposition to potential and current employees."


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