Building a Competent, Compliant Contingent Healthcare Workforce

Staffing agencies across all sectors aim to deliver the right talent to each client just when the client needs it. In healthcare, the urgency and accuracy around contingent talent placement is even more critical.

The credential package for healthcare professionals is the most complex in the contingent industry. It consists of work history, licensures, certifications, self-assessment checklists, competency testing, and past performance evaluations. This involves thousands of professionals in thousands of facilities across multiple state and local jurisdictions.

Understanding the challenges of providing quality staff begins with understanding the role contingent talent plays in healthcare’s overall workforce strategy. While the best healthcare staffing agencies do their diligence to provide quality workers who enhance organizations’ ability to provide care, it is important to understand the challenges and oftentimes negative perceptions of temporary talent in the healthcare industry.

Contingent clinicians — from per diem CNAs to travel nurses to physician assistants filling in for someone on parental leave — are essential to the operations of thousands of providers across the entire continuum of care. However, temporary staffing raises a host of challenges for provider organizations and the staffing agencies serving them.

Staffing agencies can’t afford to place unqualified or mismatched talent. Placing improperly credentialed clinicians or those who lack the right skills for a given placement can put the health and safety of patients at stake, as well as damage the agency’s – and its healthcare organization client’s – reputation.

Verifying that clinicians have valid and required licenses is just a first step for staffing agencies. Agencies, which are typically the employer of record, also must assess how candidates’ paper qualifications translate to a particular hospital department or nursing home floor.

When temporary clinicians are brought in, team cohesion can be harmed. Bring in the wrong people, and you degrade team effectiveness — team cohesion is one of many workforce factors affecting patient health and safety.

PREMIUM CONTENT: US Healthcare Staffing Market Assessment: 2019 Update

It’s well-documented how contingent clinicians, who by the nature of the work arrangement are never fully integrated into the provider organization, risk degrading patient safety. And it stands to reason that many problems stem from clinicians who either aren’t properly credentialed or lack some of the skills required for a particular placement.

A study of 15,717 nursing homes found that facilities whose staff had 5% or more contract RNs and LPNs were in the 25% of providers that had the most healthcare deficiencies. Another study of a 140-bed acute care medical center found that the greater the proportion of temporary staff, the higher the rate of medication errors.

Without proper vetting of skills and fit, agencies can have adverse effects on provider organizations and the people they care for. That’s why we put so much emphasis on skills checklists, licensure validation, and knowledge tests.

To place the right people in the right roles, staffing agencies need all that information to glean a full picture of each healthcare professional. Combine that with a deep understanding of the provider and facility where they are placing the staff, and that is how the right placements at the right time happen.

Effective skills matching and credential verification for contingent clinicians pose steep challenges to healthcare staffing agencies. But with the right processes and technologies in place, staffing firms can enable their clients to provide excellent patient care. And that superior performance will, in turn, give agencies a big edge in a very competitive staffing sector.

David Wilkins

David Wilkins
David Wilkins is chief strategy officer of HealthcareSource.

David Wilkins

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