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There are multiple reasons why a hospital, medical practice, or clinic has fewer nurses than needed. While in the past, this was due to low graduation rates or budgeting restrictions, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a massive decrease in nursing staff all over the globe. These 5 ways can help you fill a short-term nursing gap quickly if you find your facility is low on staff.
How to Fill in a Staffing Gap Immediately
Hiring a full-time nurse may not be the best thing for your facility, but you’ll still need enough staff to fill your patients’ needs. Use the following programs to find part-time staff.
1. Using Travel Nurses From an Agency
Travel nurses are currently in high demand to fill in gaps in staffing during the pandemic. Many nurses will avoid hazardous countries or virus hotspots, so travel healthcare staffing can come at a high financial cost to balance the risk of infection. Travel staff usually work for a minimum of 12 months in a facility, but long-term contracts are available at most agencies.
2. Find Registered Medical Staff to Act as PRNs
PRN stands for the Latin phrase pro re nata, which translates to “as the situation demands.” Since hospitals can’t up and close when they’re understaffed, PRNs are hired and called during high patient occupancy times. While PRNs do work on an unpredictable schedule, they’re essential to the medical ecosphere and can operate in multiple hospitals at once.
3. Sign a Temporary Locum Tenens Contract
Unlike PRNs or travel nurses, a locum tenens must live and work in the same location for an extended period. Medical staff that work on a locum tenens contract typically fill in for sick physicians or vacationing professionals for longer than a month. When the full-time or part-time nurse returns to duty, locum tenens employees are let go or put into another position.
4. Hire a Float Pool Nurse/Doctor With Different Specialties
Float pool medical professionals are incredibly employable because they can work in multiple areas in a hospital. For example, a nurse with a wide range of specialties would swap between labor, emergency, ICU, and surgical during her shift or throughout the week. Typically, a float pool physician is hired full-time, but temporary medical staff can be hired if necessary.
5. Call a Hiring Agency for a Seasonal Nurse
Places like Florida and Arizona, which have an already high aging population, tend to see more emergency patients during the summer. A seasonal nurse can be hired through a hiring agency as a semi-permanent staff member while the patient numbers stay high and consistent. Although some staff will move into full-time roles, seasonal contracts only last 3 to 6 months.
How to Determine a Staffing Issue
You may not know if your facility is having staffing issues. Look for these signs to quickly determine if you need to hire a few extra hands.
- Errors are becoming more common in patient care. High caseloads can stress out medical staff, which will lead to more mistakes. In the medical industry, mistakes should be minimized because you’re trusted to handle moderate to severe medical conditions.
- Patients complain more often than usual. Hospital staff are well aware that being in their facility is uncomfortable, even as a visitor. However, it’s your job to keep patients’ needs at the forefront by keeping the rooms clean and nurses prompt with care.
- Medical staff are calling in sick more often. Burnout will occur more frequently in facilities with fewer staff members. If you notice your team is becoming more irritable, are disengaged with their job, or taking more sick days, it’s time to hire more people.
- Injuries are happening more frequently. Busy staff can become flighty or klutzy. Overwhelmed employees are more likely to trip, cut their skin or hurt their backs. If an employee is already in pain, they are more likely to injure themselves further.
Staff members who explicitly declare they need more help shouldn’t be brushed off. Listen to them and take their words seriously because they’re the ones performing these tasks.