by Tim Rowan, Editor
"What every large company needs is a position called 'VP in Charge of Eliminating Crappy Policies'."
With that attention-getting assertion, April Hansen summarized her message to AlayaCare's annual user gathering, "Better Outcomes," held in October at Niagara Falls, Ontario. Ms. Hansen is a nurse and the Group President of Workforce Solutions for Aya Healthcare, the largest U.S. healthcare staffing services company. Intrigued by her presentation, which ranged from recruiting and retention to strait talk about how to improve patient outcomes, we sat down with her before her flight home to Green Bay.
She told the 300 or so AlayaCare clients that policies become entrenched in most organizations and are difficult to even see, much less change, unless they are re-examined on a regular basis, preferably through a pair of outside eyes. She should know. She joined the startup company as a traveling nurse, working 13-week assignments all over the country, and grew with it into her current position. Her perspective and advice regarding acute vs. in-home staffing is enlightening.
"The healthcare staffing market is unbalanced right now," she told us, beginning with the obvious. "There is so much demand, and the supply is relatively constrained. There is cost inflation because everybody is fighting for a limited pool of resources. It is not just healthcare; you see it everywhere. In lumber, groceries, airfares. Healthcare staffing is not immune to this.
But Home Health is hard for staffing agency workers because of the added dimension of continuity of care.
"I lead the client side of our business, where we mostly place clinicians, but I also work with a panel of aggregated subcontractors to staff non-clinical caregiving positions. I work with our recruitment side to keep them informed about client needs, but I spend the bulk of my time trying to understand client needs, mostly in large healthcare systems.
"I get to know their executives, as well as the people doing the recruiting work and their challenges. And then we look at how their specifics influence our product, our marketing strategies, advertising, everything to be able to help them fill their needs. But it goes deeper than that. When every other strategy has not worked, and they still have a vacancy, they come to us. We help them dig back up the chain to figure out where their solutions have fallen short: Are they inefficient at recruitment? Do they not have effective advertising strategies to find clinicians?
Q: So, you are not just providing staff, you are looking for deeper, systemic problems. Wouldn't finding solutions to those problems result in reducing their need for your staffing services?
Absolutely. We want to bring balance to an unbalanced healthcare staffing market. We would rather have 100 jobs and fill 100 than have a thousand and fill 200. You don't want that gap to be large, you want it to be tighter and sustainable. Everybody has budgetary frameworks so we have to fit what we are offering into what they can afford. You want your clients to not only purchase now but purchase again.
Q: So here is the 64-thousand-dollar question: When a staffing company such as yours hires hundreds of nurses to meet the staffing needs for large health systems, are you not pulling from the same pool of talent that would otherwise be available on the open market? Are you not exacerbating the nursing shortage experienced by other healthcare providers, say for example, Home Health agencies, which experience the shortage more severely than hospital systems do?
Maybe so. Employment choices are highly personalized. Working for a staffing agency is a different employer/value proposition. Not every nurse wants a permanent position. Some come to us with their own reasons for looking for a temporary job, maybe a trial job:
"We see a lot of nurses using staffing agencies to 'test drive' an employer," Ms. Hansen continued, "and then making a choice. I actually did that myself, early in my career. I worked in 31 hospitals, but Home Health is harder than hospitals for staffing agency workers. Patients are at their most vulnerable at home. When you are a new nurse walking into a home, you do not know the person, their case, their likes and dislikes, and do not have the trust of their family. To be an outsider in that environment is really tough. That is why it is hard for the staffing world and Home Health world to intersect.
Q: You must have some good news to leave with us.
I think there may be a strong play in the future in Home Health for staffing, but it will have to be regional rather than national. When you have local conglomerates where temporary staff share sets of demographics, they share common geographic challenges, and they have a common set of cultural norms, it is easier. They do not have that hump of the outsider to overcome, like some coming in from, say, Wisconsin to work in Mississippi for a couple of months. Demographic and cultural differences are hard in Home Health, easier in acute care. If we were to be more active in Home Health, that is how we would do it, regionally.
©2022 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Home Care Technology: The Rowan Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. email@example.com