Arkansas Hospitals Health & Science

Staffing For Success: HSS Survey Finds What Matters to HR Leaders

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By Cathy Sams, Communications Strategist, Healthcare Staffing Services

When it comes to filling critical job vacancies, hospital human resources managers know that time isn’t just money. It’s quality care and the life of the patient. That’s why dependability and responsiveness rank at the top of their list of expectations from workforce staffing partners, according to a recent survey by Healthcare Staffing Services (HSS).

HSS, a preferred staffing provider for Arkansas Hospital Association members through AHA Services, Inc., recently conducted an online survey and several focus groups to learn how it could improve services to help hospitals meet workforce needs.

More than 130 employers participated, including human resources (HR) directors, nursing leaders, recruiters and hospital executives.

The top five qualities they value most are having a workforce provider that is:

  • Dependable (meaning staff are available when needed);
  • Responsive;
  • Ethical and trustworthy;
  • Cost-effective; and
  • Able to provide high-quality, credentialed staff quickly.

The focus on dependability and responsiveness isn’t surprising, considering the challenges facing health care employers. Leading the list is job growth, which makes competition for highly qualified job candidates intense.

HSS President Sherry Kolb addressed workforce shortages at a recent executive leadership summit, noting that the gap between job openings and hires is substantial and growing, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Nursing jobs are increasing at an accelerated rate. The number of nursing jobs in the U.S. grew 6%, to 3.5 million, from 2012 to 2016, and is expected to grow another 7%, from 3.6 million in 2017 to 3.9 million in 2021,” she said. “At the same time, employers are struggling to find qualified people to fill job vacancies, leaving nurses currently on staff with larger workloads and longer hours.”

The trend isn’t going to change anytime soon. By 2020, jobs in health care are projected to grow by 30%, more than twice as fast as the general economy.

A second critical issue is turnover. According to an analysis conducted by Compdata Surveys, turnover among health care jobs in 2016 averaged 19.9%, up from 17.7% in 2014 and 15.6% in 2010. Health care now ranks second only to the hospitality industry in turnover.

It’s a costly trend. Recent studies of the costs of nurse turnover have reported results ranging from about $22,000 to over $64,000 (U.S.) per nurse turnover, according to an article in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, a publication of the American Nurses Association.

According to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a conservative estimate is that it costs hospitals $10,000 in direct recruitment costs each time an RN position turns over. “Hidden” costs, such as lost productivity and training time, can add thousands more to the financial impact.

Finally, Baby Boomers in the job market are rapidly moving toward retirement. This combination is making it harder and harder to fill vacancies, as HR directors know well. The average time spent recruiting an experienced RN ranges from 55 to 119 days, depending on the specialty.

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HSS understands these trends and is committed to helping hospitals find solutions. The company is using results from the survey and focus groups to strategically expand its scope of services, invest in new technology and improve customer service to better serve current and future hospital clients. The company’s strategic plan – along with a major rebranding – will roll out shortly after the first of the year.

The survey also asked about additional services, beyond staffing, that a workforce partner could provide that would be of value. The top three identified were programs or services that would help them manage workforce costs, recruit top talent and create a more positive workforce culture. Along with “controlling turnover,” each of those factors was rated “extremely important” by 50% or more of respondents.

Focus group discussions indicated mixed perspectives about using travelers or supplemental staff. Some participants expressed concerns about cost and the ability of supplemental staff to fit in and contribute quickly. Others said supplemental staffing is an essential business tool that will only become more important as the demand for qualified health care workers continues to outpace the supply.

Statistics back up the latter perspective. Kolb said her company has seen travel staff placement increase by 39% since last year, and based on assignments per month, 2017 will set another record.

One advantage offered by HSS is the option for hospitals to retain supplemental staff for full-time positions without any buyouts or fees. The “try before you buy” strategy allows providers to solve both temporary and permanent staffing needs with one resource.

Providers who work with HSS rate the company highly, according to the research. More than 80% rated the company as excellent or good on such factors as being ethical and trustworthy, providing rigorously screened and highly credentialed staff, working and functioning with hospitals as a partner and being customer-focused.

About HSS

HSS is a managed workforce service provider that was created more than 15 years ago by hospitals for hospitals. A division of the South Carolina Hospital Association’s Solutions group, it currently has preferred vendor arrangements with 13 state hospital associations, including AHA Services, to help member hospitals fill vacancies quickly with minimal administrative bureaucracy.

The company offers one contract that provides access to more than 100 staffing agencies nationwide. All agencies providing clinical staff are certified by the Joint Commission as an additional quality assurance measure. In addition, its revenue-sharing business model provides funding that state associations can reinvest to improve health care in their states.

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The above article is from the Fall 2017 edition of Arkansas Hospitals, a quarterly magazine published by the Arkansas Hospital Association. Vowell, Inc. produces Arkansas Hospitals on behalf of the Arkansas Hospital Association. This article is reprinted with permission.

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