4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Healthcare Staffing Solution

October 5, 2022
Sarah Gray, RN

Health systems have been working with various types of staffing solutions for decades to complement, supplement, and manage their workforce. These staffing solutions can come in the form of services, suppliers, technology, or some combination of the three and have historically taken on the outsourcing of a health system’s contingent labor. 

As the landscape of healthcare staffing and the technology available evolves, health systems have begun to fundamentally rethink their approach to staffing to regain control, visibility, and cost efficiency. They’re re-evaluating their current solutions, or lack thereof, in search of more modern and innovative ways to attract, mobilize, and retain a healthcare workforce while creating a sustainable environment for their bottom line and for their clinicians. 

This kind of workforce transformation requires sifting through and comprehensively evaluating an abundance of systems and services that typically provide one-off solutions, or simply don’t paint the whole picture. After employing thousands of nurses across all 50 states at over 1,500 healthcare employers directly and through various types of staffing solutions, here are the top things we recommend keeping in mind when evaluating different solutions.

1. There is a cost

“There’s no such thing as free lunch”applies even to ‘no-cost’ staffing technology. While staffing technology is typically proposed as a no-fee/free cost structure, it’s not that simple. The buck is passed. The cost is simply shifted to the suppliers, who need to account for these additional fees in the bill rates that they in turn offer talent.

What happens is that you’re offered the technology and MSP (Managed Services Provider) services for free, at zero-cost. The MSP and VMS (Vendor Management System) fees are then passed to the vendor/suppliers. With or without the insights and guidance of the MSP, you determine appropriate bill rates to set for external labor and those are passed along to the vendor/suppliers. To be able to offer the highest and most competitive rates, they need to account for those fees in their margins. This means that the bill rate you initially set may not be high enough to truly be competitive and will ultimately need to increase, as advised by the MSP or signaled by a lack of candidate pipeline.

Takeaway: The cost to you is increased bill rates to account for the MSP and VMS fees that will cut into the suppliers’ margins and employment costs. When being pitched by and reviewing staffing solutions and solutions, inquire about all the fees that do exist, even if you won’t be charged directly for them. 

2. Not all technology is created equally

While most Vendor Management Systems (VMS) have similar functionality and features, some Managed Services Providers (MSPs) utilize their own homegrown technology while others leverage third party products. There can be quite a lot of variability in the user interface and user experience, especially depending on who the technology was built to be primarily used by (i.e. MSP only, MSP + suppliers, MSP + Suppliers + hiring managers). Assess how many of your processes and communications can be facilitated through the system and not need to be circumvented via email, phone calls, and additional services.

Another type of technology that is often evaluated in a workforce evaluation is scheduling software, which is a key component in effectively managing a workforce. However, scheduling software is a point solution and features can be both limited in functionality (i.e. targeted recruitment) and pay-per-use, making it an ineffective way to manage staffing from a cost and operational perspective.

Takeaway: Assess integration capabilities, understand how your organization will interact directly with the technology. This is key for speed, efficiency & transparency!

3. It doesn’t have to be completely outsourced

A workforce strategy needs sufficient technology to scale but may not require complete operational outsourcing and the associated cost to execute it. An increasing number of health systems are looking to self-manage or at least own more of the processes, which requires modern and dynamic technology to interface directly with requisitions, candidates, vendors, and suppliers to engage both internal and external labor.

This highlights the importance of thoroughly understanding how your organization will be accessing and using the technology directly to minimize reliance on a staffing solution for communications, requisition management, candidate interview and offer, onboarding & credentialing insights, and analytics. 

Takeaway: It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. There are technologies and solutions that provide support and consultation in conjunction with technology to either get you up and running with a self-managed program or support you with needs as they arise. Not sure where to start or feel intimidated by bringing components in-house? Inquire with staffing solutions and technical solutions if they can offer strategy and implementation guidance to get you started and set you up for success.

4. It impacts your workforce’s experience

The staffing solution and/or technology you leverage will impact your workforce based on its functionality, features, and user experience - directly and indirectly.

This shows up through how they receive and interact with your job and shift opportunities (mass messaging vs. targeted recruitment), the speed at which the process occurs, the compensation they ultimately receive, how they move through an onboarding and credentialing process, and how their contract/employment is managed and updated.

Here are two examples, from both an internal and external workforce perspective:

Travel Nurse

Contract opportunity:

  • Requisition/Job Information: The level of detail a nurse can understand about an opportunity is dependent upon how hiring managers (or a staffing solution) create a requisition, what details can be entered, and how suppliers/agencies interact with that information.
  • Application/Submittal: The process for suppliers to submit their candidates and requirements of the solution/technology dictate what’s required from nurses and how quickly their application can be reviewed. The ability for a hiring manager to easily access and review candidate profiles
  • Offer: Similar to a requisition, the level of detail a nurse can understand about an offer being extended is dependent on how that information is inputted and exchanged between a hiring manager and staffing solution to ultimately be passed along to a nurse. Additionally, similar to application and submittal, the functionality and usability of the technology (or lack thereof, requiring email exchange) impacts the speed to get a candidate an offer, and thus the likelihood of acceptance and on-time start.
  • Credentialing & Onboarding: The more clear requirements are laid out and seamless it is to upload documentation, the quicker a supplier can get an external candidate credentialed. Additionally, functionality for your team to review and accept/reject documentation with specifics can decrease onboarding delays and prevent off-time starts.
  • Contract Management: The ability for hiring managers to have access 

Staff Nurse

Shift opportunity:

  • Distribution: How open shifts are identified and distributed to staff makes all the difference in the experience being signal vs. noise. If the distribution is not intelligent and targeted (or is non-existent and thus requiring manual workarounds such as manual texting, Facebook groups, etc), nurses begin to ignore or opt out of them altogether. 
  • Information/Details: The level of detail a nurse can access about an available open shift is crucial for making an efficient and informed decision about picking it up. If nurses aren’t able to easily access and understand key details such as timing, location, role, and compensation for an open shift, they’re unlikely to opt into it.
  • Acceptance: While some solutions enable open-shift distribution with or without shift details, they’re often limited in functionality and don’t enable nurses to easily accept or decline them without having to call a unit or staffing office or log into a system from a desktop.
Takeaway: Understand what the experience and process is, not just for you and your hiring leaders, but also for the suppliers that will be accessing, reviewing, and submitting candidates to your jobs and onboarding and credentialing their employees. The more transparent and seamless the experience for them, the quicker you receive high quality candidates and the sooner they start and the better the experience is for the nurses working with those suppliers.

Make Staffing a Win-Win for Both Nurses and Administration

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